By Roger Wilkinson
What a great sport football is! Look at any public park at weekends or summer evenings you will see kids kicking a ball about. The weekend junior leagues are full of earnest enthusiastic youngsters playing their hearts out under the direction of well-meaning volunteer coaches and managers. Any winter Sunday morning there are thousands of sometimes overweight under skilled but always enthusiastic adults playing all levels of Sunday football.
Attending this year’s cup final also brought home to me the pleasure, excitement and emotion the game at the highest level brings to literally millions of supporters.
Yet, do we really nurture and develop this wonderful asset?
Despite all the positives, am I right in seeing so many ever growing negatives? The kids game is riddled with coaches more concerned with winning than development and parents yelling and berating players and referees a like.
Professional players and managers are overpaid, cheating and constantly swearing at and criticising opponents and referees alike.
Talking to grassroots junior clubs there is often the criticism that their league administrators hammer them with fees and fines, in the Warwickshire league alone it is rumoured that nearly 20 inner city junior clubs folded because they could not meet the financial impositions the league imposed on them.
Charter Standard is often seen as a money making scheme for the FA and that the clubs having strived to achieve this bench mark receive very little added value for their efforts apart from having their coaches complete a less than adequate level 1!! Yes less than adequate!!
At the top level of the game the FA is seen as a mis-managed anachronism lacking ethics, values and judgement and more importantly real leadership. We spent 10 million pounds on trying to win the 2016 World Cup fully knowing beforehand that FIFA was corrupt and would ask for kick backs but only complained about it when our bid failed. Are the FA and the government saying that if we had succeeded then the corruption didn’t matter?
We’re paying some patently challenged Italian 6 million pounds to “coach” our underperforming national team. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that our much vaunted FA coaching scheme cannot produce our own national coach?
Trevor Brooking despite being in the job for nearly 7 years has just discovered that our kids are not sufficiently skilled so now we’ve got “The Future Game”. But have a look at the unrealistic practices for 7 year olds (the most important development age group )that the “Future Game “manual contains to see that those in the coaching hierarchy are blissfully unaware of the problems and more importantly unaware of the answers the development of grass roots needs .The FA Coaching Programme is not fit for purpose.
It’s time for change and we should expect at the very least;
We need a visionary! Someone who understands the game, understands coaching and coach education and who can appoint, train and inspire fellow coaches at all levels. Someone who really understands the importance of grass roots and early years learning for young players
A way of playing that is based on great individualism that is conjoined into great team play. As John Cartwright always says “Winning isn’t everything –Winning with style is everything”. A way of playing that every coach in the country can relate to and coach towards.
A Coach Education scheme
That is about developing great coaches at all levels especially those at grass roots working with kids between 5 yrs and 15 yrs rather than a money making scheme to pay inflated wages and white elephants like Burton and Wembley.
A National club programme
That develops stable, permanent, well run junior clubs .We must change our thinking and view our junior clubs as junior development centres linked closely with local schools to provide the facilities, playing time and coaching to maximise the quality of the work , experience and opportunities our young players are subjected to.
More importantly a club/school programme that promotes and employs full time junior coaches working across the whole spectrum of clubs, schools and skills centres to provide consistent top quality coaching throughout the young players development years .
Pro Club Academies
Players should be going in to Pro club academies at a later age at around 14 or 15! Yes, that late, because the present programme just doesn’t work –the pro clubs are recruiting kids as young as 8 and by 10 and 11 kids are being discarded as not good enough and can we honestly say that the early recruitment process is producing great players?
A regional coaching scheme
Headed by a regional director of coaching to service all the coaches in the area with seminars and coaching meetings to up skill coaches. This director more importantly would liaise with head office and quickly disseminate new ideas and projects on coach and player development.
The regional coaching centre would be based at the local University or College of FE and would provide coach education training facilities with easy access for the local region. These centres would be far more important than Burton because they would localise coach education and provide a greater reach to the masses. Burton as a centre for the game? I can’t see many coaches from Newcastle, Hull, Taunton and Bath regularly attending courses there!
I believe most of my suggestions are common sense and are recommended to support the foundation of the game. If we get that right and start producing high quality, innovative coaches at all levels who are working towards a sophisticated, skilfull, tactically clever gamestyle and are in turn producing high quality skilfull players then the top end could be something to be proud of.