My earliest memories of playing football were mainly at school & after school with Jumpers for goalposts. We would arrange to get to school early to play small sided matches before the whistle went to line up, lunchtime games were up to 8 vs 8 on a playground with little space depending who would want to play with the best ball someone had brought into school that day and every other year group trying to play on the same playground, if we talk about taking and dealing with the ball then you are certainly challenged to do that on the playground & safe to say space awareness was a high outcome.
With no referee you had to be able to look after yourself on the playground and teachers left us to get on with it. Unfortunately as soon as something gets a bit heated in schools these days I have seen football be banned from the playground.
After school, we would rush home get on our favourite kit, ball under the arm and get over to the spinney (a park) play Wembley, a match or headers & volleys until the sun went down and even then we had a church car park with a floodlight and a goal drawn on the wall with chalk where we would play after dinner, we were simply hooked and it was literally school, football, sleep, repeat.
I started playing football for a grassroots team at the age of 5 and I loved being part of a team, at this age all I wanted to do is be a kid, play with my friend’s and go to football at weekends.
At the foundation phase 5-11 this is one most important phases for development, do not push your child to be Messi at 7 years old. Place them in an environment they are going to enjoy playing and having the fun with their friends, sit back & enjoy watching them play, even if its in other sports because they will develop their ABCS (Agility, balance, coordination & speed).
If they start to develop a love for the game and start to get to a level where they need to be challenged they will be noticed and picked up by a club where that will happen, I promise you that as scouts and people who work in professional environments are everywhere watching games and there are way more opportunities than there used to be. I was lucky enough to get myself into a pro club at 9, but If anyone can learn from what happened to me is that’s when you get to that point work even harder because at that level there is always someone else waiting for you to slack. I thought I had it too easy unfortunately, I got released at 14 and my whole world came crashing down and from there I never really reached the potential I had.
Some of the best players that go on to play in the Pro game have all had set backs and then come back fighting even stronger or lots have had hard upbringings and have that fire in their belly to achieve better.
Hunger is paradise- A great read for anyone that wants to know what it takes
I have also watched the documentary which is also great.
I’m planning on doing a blog based on developing the player & the four corner model which will go into more details of the development of players & the different phases.
Who remembers what it was like to be a kid who loved football?
From a little as 8/9/10 years you had free rein of the village depending on where you lived, Sometimes miles from home on your bikes and you & your friends sticking together until it was time to go home for dinner. It was normally playing football or man hunt and I would always be late for dinner with mud from head to toe.
Dinner was done and it was back out to play again. How did you know where a mate was? His/her bike was laying on the lawn outside a house, shop or park.
I feel it’s becoming a lot harder for children to have free play or chances to play outside independently and create their own fun as much as it used to be. This is for a number of reasons that we won’t get into but as coaches we need to realise that messy play during a coaching session when they are just starting out is OK. Learning on their own without a coach or parent telling them what they can or can’t do. In football, we need to be able to create independent decision makers and how does that happen if we are constantly telling them what to do. Let them make mistakes, try things, think of solutions to problems.
Nurture vs Nature
This has always been a great debate and I’m not here to say which is right or wrong but I want to share my experiences on why I got to the level I did but also why I may have not reached the level I wanted to achieve.
My family have always had sport in their lives, my grandad played football for Brighton boys but never played past youth team level, my Dad played football at a low non-league level and was actually a much better Cricketer than he was a footballer, My Mum played Badminton at County Level, So I’m not blessed with Genes of Professional sporting parents but sports runs in the family.
My opinion on this subject is Nature or genes from your parents gives you are good head start but that only makes up a small percentage in reaching a child’s full potential. You 100% need a balance of both but then again I have seen a player develop and become a full time football player and their parents not even have an interest in the sport.
The best players don’t always have the most talent, for example Garry Neville from the class of 92’ at Man united, he didn’t have the technique or ability of Scholes, Giggs, Beckham & co, but what Neville did have is a desire & a drive to succeed and become a first team player. He would do extra and work harder than anyone else, he became a winner and learned what it takes to win.
If you want to develop a young footballer than these key aspects are important but if you are hoping for them to be the next Messi then training once or twice a week in a structured practice just won’t cut it I’m afraid. They have to fall in love with the game, be addicted to improving all aspects of their game and above all else have a work ethic that is better than everyone else, I’m not going to sugar coat the fact that playing football at a high level is tough and you need to sacrifice a lot to make the grade, I don’t have many regrets as everything happens for a reason but I do ask what if? What if I decided to get my head down & train harder, work harder, what could I have been? Because I certainly had a talent and I’ve done good in my non league Career but what might have been is a question I ask.
One of the many reasons I wanted to coach is to help younger players reach their own full potential, realise their own dreams and don’t let anyone else tell you can’t achieve these dreams.
Throughout my development I had good coaches & bad, the good coaches made me realise my potential and challenged me to be better. The bad ones who told me I would be nothing have given me a deep desire to succeed and prove them wrong and I thank them all the same.
Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.