Grateful

I have just returned from observing the Premier Skills Practice Play level 2 course for the second time in a couple of weeks. On my journey home I was thinking about how grateful I am as a coach to have been introduced to the Premier Skills Practice Play methodology many years ago. It also got me thinking about my own playing career or lack of it more like!

I played my last competitive game at the age of 20, it was for a semi professional side but I had lost interest with the way the game was played, even at that age I had a very clear vision in my mind how I thought the game should be played and trying to play football when everybody else was playing fightball proved to be very difficult.

Fast forward 7 years and my younger brother who had been in the academy system for 10years from the age of 9-19 decided he had played his last game at the tender age of 21. The more I thought back the more I realised that we were not alone, lots of good talented players that me and my brother grew up with had all stopped playing at an early age! What scared me even more was the players who were still playing were the physical and powerful players with little skill and grace.

My question to you is can you be certain that you are providing an environment that allows your young players to flourish? Are you providing your young players with a football and life education? or are your actions and words indicating to your players that development comes from victory and not individual improvement?

As John Cartwright often alludes to football is a game for skilful individuals, let’s give these individuals the opportunity to showcase what they can do! Do not change your beliefs and football philosophy to conform to beliefs that you do not agree with!

Teach the game to be played with style and skill, devote your coaching time to producing players to be different and better than the oversized and underskilled opposition.

Our next generation of players from grassroots through to youth level deserve this. They deserve the opportunity to enjoy their football and play the game they have fallen in love with in the manner that attracted them to the game in the first place.

Too many times I hear I’ve had to sign a big lad to bolster up the team, too many times I hear we need to toughen up. I work with children day in and day out and never see any child pick their team mates because of their size and strength!

Will your players look back in ten or twenty years and be grateful? Grateful for the opportunities that you have bestowed upon them, grateful that you have helped them to become the best they can be and grateful that you have allowed them to learn the game the way they wanted it to be taught?

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13 thoughts on “Grateful

  1. We need to cultivate the Laureano Ruiz model that Ajax have taken on board for years.Football is a game best played by technically gifted and intelligent people.The model is of course also followed by Barca.

    Dani Alves apparently has a tatoo of sylvester and tweety pie which is meant to show how the little man comes out on top!!!-Footballs David will always slay footballs goliath if he is more technically adept and can think faster.

    English football has been held back by people who use physical size to assess footballers rather than football intelligence and technical ability.

  2. Hi Stephen. What you are feeling now and putting into words is exactly what i felt and battled to overcome in this country for well over 40 years. It’s been a hard and often lonely ‘slog’ to get people to take notice, but don’t give up on the kids, they’re great and so is the game that they are entitled to learn and play with style and skill. Good luck and keep going.

  3. Great blog. I’m 34 now but when I was in my teens you had zero chance of signing YTS forms with a pro club unless you could run the 100 metres in less than 12 seconds and were at least 6 inches above averge height. However I do think things are slowly changing. Our local professional team (League 1) have completely changed their youth system (staff included) and there seems to be a lot more focus on development, skills, technique and less on physicality. I’ve been well informed that on a recent trials day most of the kids selected where small and slight but had much better balls skills and technique than a lot of the bigger bruisers of the same age. Most of the training evolves around small sided games or games that are match scenario specific, to improve decision making, rather than static drills and endless fitness sessions.

    I truely hope that things are changing for the better but deep down I’m sure that these changes won’t have a national roll-out or knock on effect for many many years to come

    Unfortunately for every good coach there are still 2 or 3 bad ones who only care about winning at all costs

  4. As with all sports there is more than one way of winning and in football its the winning that is paramount, just as in life we are born to win. You are never going to acheive your ideology that all teams and youth academies are going to play a set way, football would be boring if teams like Stoke and Bolton weren’t allowed to play their style of football. The reality is all players have to have physical strength to some degree, you make out that football in this country at all levels is played in kick and rush style with a lot of physicallity but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Maybe in the amatuer leagues or lower pro leagues there is some of that, but its usually dictated to pitch conditions and the fact there is no money there to invest in better training facilities and getting in the best coaches.
    We are living in very tough economical times whereby when the FFP rules come into effect more teams are going to have less money to invest in talent. The amatuer leagues will probably die off altogether within 10 years as more and more pitches get turned into housing estates to accomodate an ever growing population.

    The reason perhaps you and your brother didn’t get anywhere in the game was probably due more down to a lack of determination than anything. Sometimes in life you have to adapt to what is needed and not think that there is only one set way of achieving that goal. You said that the talented players were giving up and that it was the physically stronger players with less ability that were still playing, however you look at the likes of Ronaldo, has more skill than 99.9% of players yet physically is also as strong as an ox helped primarily from his time in English football. Messi is a small, thin guy yet is just as effective in a slightly more techincal league. Its horses for courses, you adapt your skill and physique to the quality of the league/team you play in. The fact you gave up to me is taking the easy way out. If the game was played the way you wanted it then we may as well call it 5 aside. It would become a game of basketball, end to end, no contact, it would just become boring and stale.

    With sports science a key component in getting the absolute maximum from the human body, players need to also be as physically perfect as possible. The top club teams in football spend as much time training as they do on the physical and mental preparation of things. Gone are the days where you just work on touch and passes and movement, that is what Liverpool still think they can do today and look where that has got them!
    I think you need a reality check to be fair, I like the ideology of allowing kids to purely just play but what will be the point if it doesn’t get them anywhere in the game!

  5. I think that Football Professor makes some valid points in his comments.
    In my experience football has always been a very tought game, especially in England, and no more so than in the days of ‘street football’. The big, strong kids handed out plenty of ‘stick’ then, and school teachers, youth workers etc. running teams went for these type of players just as much in those days.
    The difference was that in those days the talented kids, perhaps in many cases small and skinny for their age, learnt how to wriggle and dodge away from congested areas and physically bigger opponents. I have mentioned before a comment which Arsene Wenger made, to the effect that he prefers the smaller, slighter child in the younger age groups so that they can develop the ability to self-protect and manipulate the ball from trouble and congestion, way from bigger opponents whose dominance at that stage is largely due to their physicality.
    Of course, this is one of the many things which we have lost with the disappearance of street football, but the Practice/Play methodology, with its focus on dealing with situations made difficult with the constraints of time and space, addresses this problem as a priority.

  6. Football professor, i have to disagree with some of your comments! winning is paramount, yes it is at the top level when jobs, careers and millions of pounds are at stake but not with our young players at any level. We have to produce players not winning teams, players go on to play for teams that hopefully will be winners.

    I watch a lot of football at all levels and yes not all aproach the game with a kick and rush philosophy but a lot of the teams that i watch have no idea or understanding of how to play attractive winning football, at Premier Skills we do!

    You also talk about finances to employ better coaches, why? we can upskill them and teach them different ways of playing the game. A premier skills level 1 is £35 and as lots of coaches at all different levels, with all different types of football qualifications will vouch for.

    As for my own playing career i never lacked determination, i wanted to play the game the way i belived it should be, growing up playing football on the street skill was everything we never talked about battles, we were bloody competitive but the football was always good with the emphasis on every individual being a skilful player.

    As for needing a reality check, im fine with the way i see the game and the players and coaches that i work with all think the same. Premier Skills is not just letting the kids play, there is a sophisticated methodolgy that underlies everything we do with our players and coaches.

    We have to change the game in this country to produce better players will the huff and puff style of England bring us success at the euro championships, i very much doubt it. Maybe then we can continue to take steps in the roght direction in changing the way our game is played and coached

    Hopefully John Cartwright will add a few points as he is the man behind the methodology

  7. Football Professor – when you say that winning is paramount do you mean at all levels of the game? For the kids that are coming into the sport I couldn’t disagree with you more. I think people get confused with not worrying about the result and not wanting to be competitive. Kids will always want to win, it’s human nature, but the more emphasis you put on the result the further you get away from the long term objective, which is developing kids into well rounded players. Breeding competitive, skill full, intelligent players is paramount.

    The win at all cost mentality has been the foundation of our national game for years, where has it got us?

    Finally you closed your post with what’s the point of just letting kids play, some kids don’t want to play to win trophies, they just want to play – BECAUSE IT’S FUN

  8. So Matt, if its for fun, then why operate a business model aimed at profiteering from kids who, lets face it, many like think that there is a chance to become professional?

    We are living in an ever improving, ever demanding, ever changing times whereby success needs to be bred into people. Its a competitive world out there, learning the way to win and indeed accepting the bitter taste of defeat is what helps us all strive to do one thing, IMPROVE. Whenever I played any sport or game, the one thing that kept me coming back from more was after the taste of defeat, I hated it. Victory was all that mattered and this philosophy helps you through life. The trouble with a lot of youngsters, indeed the million or more unemployed out there today, is that they have been bought up with a softly softly approach. That is why this country fails to produce winners at many sports, especially if there is no financial reward at the end of it. They want everything too easy and put on a plate and not prepared to work for success. Deluding kids into thinking life or football is all about fun is not really preparing them for life either.

    So if the philosophy is we should only play for fun, where does the fun of the game come from if all you are doing is striving for technical qualities but no desire to fight for that victory? Maybe some don’t have competitive interests to win or play in a team, but then what is the point in coaching for these people?

    • Football professor – Lot’s of Soccer Schools are run as a business – no denying that because its a fact. But do you think parents and kids will pay money to attend if the kids aren’t enjoying it? I think not.

      I think you’ve missed my point. I believe a competitive culture is key. You compete to win, I understand that. What I don’t agree with is winning at any cost.

      My point of view is from the grass roots level not the professional game. Too many times you see kids berrated and screamed at by coaches who don’t care about developing kids to become better players. All they want is to win games to satisfy their own ego’s. These kids then quickly lose interest in the game and no longer play – Because it isn’t fun.

      Ask any kid in the world to either do something they find fun or something they don’t find fun. Guess which one they’ll pick.

      If you get kids to enjoy playing they’ll continue to want to play. If you take time and effort to develop them and train them so they progressivley become better players they will want to continue playing. As they get older the natural competitiveness comes through and they want to win games.

      Like I said previously competitiveness is key. Kids want to compete, its natural, But we need to nurture this in the right way. We need to make children understand that you can win or lose. The most important thing is teaching kids not to be scared of losing. If they don’t fear losing then it makes them braver. Once they’re brave they want to push themselves further to accomplish more.

      I too get frustrated when I attend my kids sports day at school and its nothing but a glorified P.E. lesson. I too feel kids need to learn that you can win and you can lose, because thats what happens in life.

      However for me competitiveness is key – not winning at all costs.

  9. Football Professor wrote:
    ” The trouble with a lot of youngsters, indeed the million or more unemployed out there today, is that they have been bought up with a softly softly approach. That is why this country fails to produce winners at many sports,….”

    I must say I disagree with what I think the point is here.

    Personally, I think we don’t do very well at (mainly) team sports is because we put TOO MUCH emphasis on winning too early and don’t learn to PLAY the game properly or cleverly. In the main, I am talking about football but, generally, I think it is equally applicable to rugby especially when comparing it to Southern Hemisphere teams.

    I think that we are SO focussed on winning that we are scared to death of losing and so, paradoxically, because we are afraid, we don’t play team games with psychological bravery, cleverness and imagination. From very young ages, lots of players are taught “don’t take risks” . Again, paradoxically, if you don’t take risks, how do you know what works and what doesn’t?

    So players grow up thinking that the way to win is by not losing through taking risks. And that’s fine in an hermetically sealed environment when we only play against others brought up in the same frame of mind. However, once we get to play international teams who have been taught / allowed to take risks and to discover how to play the game with an expansive style, we regularly (almost always) come unstuck. (World Cup 2010, anyone?)

    I agree with Matt when he says above that if players can play better, they will enjoy it more and will stay in the game longer.

    If we can teach them to pall the game better, maybe we will eventually develop a winning international team (for a definition of winning, I would ask readers to have a look at the German team as an example) and the knock on effect of having a winning international team will be to increase the numbers of people (of all ages) wanting to play the game.

  10. Steve the Seagull mentioned in an earlier response to this blog that i might make a comment. Well, my comment is one i have always believed to be at the very heart of the problem of player development here: IT’S NOT COMPETITION THAT’S THE PROBLEM, IT’S HOW WE INTRODUCE AND PROGRESS IT THAT’S THE PROBLEM!! Until we provide a suitable but realistic development model we will never produce either the players nor the game-style for success.
    Of course ALL players want to enjoy playing, whether in practice or matches. We must look at both these situations throughout the whole of the development period and introduce practice and playing situations that are suitable for the age and playing ability of those involved. Forcing a ‘cut-down’ version of the full game onto inexperienced kids is NOT a sensible way forward. Because we believe in a more subtle approach to football development at Premier Skills we have carefully combined Practice with Playing requirements for all age levels……… ‘MILK’ FOR THE NEWBORN WITH A GRADUAL INCREASE TO SOLID FOODS….. ‘STEAKS’ FOR THE SENIORS WHEN THEY CAN DIGEST THE ‘FOOD’ BETTER !!!!!!!

  11. I do feel you guys are over looking the issues and deflecting it towards winning and loosing. The liver-pools of old ,Chelsea Barcelona all had/ have one thing in common they believed in each others ability’s and had managers with allot of personality with a vision of the game. it was less about winning for these managers and more about STYLE a unrelenting belief in their game style. Premier skills has style they teach confidence vision and intelligence and then they turbo charge it but i see so many coaches dads dont understand enough about building quality players and with first loss revert back to the safety of their win at all cost methods at the unforgivable cost of so many kids football enjoyment.

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