So reading in the news this week that the F.A. have just opened St George’s park, a brand spanking new centre of excellence for English football (see here) which it is hoped will in time deliver some silverware to the dusty and cobwebbed cupboards of the oldest football association in the world. But something with in me doesn’t sit right, for it seems to me that the attitude of the F.A. in recent years has been one of win at all costs and forget the price tag! I believe that if we are going to deliver the goods on the football pitch and more importantly allow young talent to flourish to a level that all young people not only excel at the national sport but have a love for it that generations past have felt there needs to be a major culture shift in the ethos of what they are about.
Let me voice my concerns and remedies….
Football is too competitive…
I have an 8 year old son who loves football, so like every other good father i took him along to the local junior football team every Saturday. He enjoyed it, he loved running around and learning the skills that allowed him to be like the heroes he watched on the TV or when i took him to see his favourite team in the stadium. But the time came that the practise sessions ended and the coach told them they were going to become a team playing every weekend home and away. Now my boy was not the best in the team, neither was he the worst. But it would have proved hard for him to get in the team every week. As someone who has managed teams myself i believe every team should play to win, so therefore i would not have blamed the coach for picking the best team, even if that meant that my boy would have been left out. But here lies the problem, i could see that he was very quickly loosing interest in the game, the pressure was too much to perform well and to be good enough. there was an atmosphere and almost unspoken rhetoric, that not one of the kids was ever going to really be good enough. This was not the coaches fault but a general ethos right thought the game from players, coaches and spectators. So we stopped going, as i did not want my boy to loose his love and passion for the beautiful game. He hasn’t, and still plays on the play ground at school and lives and breaths it when he comes home or when we go to watch his favourite team play. But it saddens me that this has to be the case, mainly because i don’t believe it has to be. For example, we have just moved to a new area, and as we have i thought i would let my boys try a new sport. So i found a local Basketball club to see if they would like to try it and to see what sort of ethos a different sport would teach. I have been amazed. Firstly by the numbers, there are as many kids wanting to be basket ballers as there are footballers, secondly that the way in which the game is taught is all about technique and not on winning, and also i have loved the way in which the senior first team are always around and help out with the coaching. I remember when i was in a Championship club’s school of excellence some of the senior players would come and help us train but again, it was obvious that they didn’t really want to be there and this rubbed off on us younger ones again thinking we would not be good enough.
Football needs to realise that its place in our society should not be taken fro granted, there are more and more options vying for our children’s attention, and when there is a much more inclusive ethos and focus on development rather than pressure to win i know where i would put my time, money and resources!….