Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I have a sad tale to relate. My nipper has decided to knock football on the head. It's sad for me, sad for him and sad for the state of British football because I believe the circumstances tell us much.
I am an avid follower of football and when I was a nipper myself could play a bit, but have never pushed him to play or watch. He has never shown much interest then out of the blue, around about the middle of September, maybe later, he said he wanted to join a team. So he did. He joined a local team with a good reputation (as far as one can tell these things) after having only one session to see if he liked it.
In truth, he was clueless, but was as keen as mustard and as motivated as anyone can be. We paid the club fees and bought him everything he needed (despite being assured by the club that they would provide everything). While the evenings were still light he would be in the garden, endlessly kicking a ball, we would spend hours at the weekend on one of the local park pitches. Bit by bit he started to improve; he kicked straight, he controlled the ball, he kept his eyes open when heading. All of it being relative of course, he is only seven so was still fairly crap, but getting better and more importantly, trying his little socks off.
Training with the club was a different story however. While his skills were improving, his knowledge of the game itself was fairly non existent and he knew nothing of positions or the lingua franca of the game. Say chip to him and he would ask for sauce with it. Most of the others his age were better as they had played more. So they stuck him with a bunch of tiddlers aged about five, which in itself was quite humiliating, especially as most of the others in his own age group were class mates. Worse, the kids themselves would tell him to go and play with the little kids, and off he would forlornly trudge. The coaches never told the other kids that it wasn't for them to say, they would just watch him go; never once explaining to him why he was being excluded from his mates.
The training itself was a bit old fashioned and nothing like the school of Ajax. There seemed to be a little elite group of about 8 who had loads of personal attention, sometimes from 2 coaches. The rest would be supervised by one geezer, sometimes about 20 of them, mostly aged about five. In consequence, little actual training would be done. Any kid would be lucky to touch the ball twice in about half an hour. The nipper would be in the middle of this, watching his mates actually doing stuff, and wonder why.
Games would consist of upwards of twenty nippers running around being supervised by 2 blokes. Why they couldn't have split them and have 2 games so everyone had a chance, not just the best or the strongest, christ knows. Any coaching website I have looked at recommends small sided games with an emphasis on developing skill, with the result unimportant. If it's good enough for Bergkamp, Kluivert et al, it should be good enough for us.
Anyway, the upshot is, he's given up. Not because he is all that bad, or because he lost interest, but because he lost heart. He felt belittled and humiliated, and gave up something he was starting to love and could be good at. Very sad.
The sadder thing is this is actually a well run club. I suspect the attitude is typical of most clubs, maybe even better than some. And there is the rub. Motivated kids who are a bit less developed than others will give up because they get no encouragement and are made to feel useless; how many kids go away and find something else to do, never to return? It's not like the old days, when kids would play all day on the street with a tennis ball. There are a thousand other activities to choose from. British football needs to wake the fuck up!
We never recieved our promised kit either, and spent well in excess of 100 quid on different boots, shorts, shirts, socks, pads and club membership. All in good condition, hardly used, if anyones interested.
Post a Comment