By John Cartwright
People inside and outside of the game of football are lamenting over the lack of ‘street football’ our youngsters play. How long have I been saying this? However, it isn’t good enough to cry over the loss of the street game and the qualities it once brought to football here, we must accept that street development is a thing of the past and move on…..as the Dutch did in the 70’s! ‘Chaos learning’ of the game in streets, playgrounds and anywhere flat enough to allow a small-sided game to be played, must now be reapplied in a modern coaching form.
How can the past be resurrected and so transfer the subtle qualities of street football into a modern learning situation? Well, it’s not that difficult if one has truly experienced actual street football; the game was played so that whilst playing one incorporated the practising of the game at the same time. Realism in practice is a vital ingredient in the learning process and realism of the actual game was an important part of street football. Our present Government has finally realized that apprenticeships must include more doing than listening—–hands need to be made dirty and there needs to be an increase in ‘trial and error’ methods in the learning process. The ‘University of the Street’ has no equal when learning the essential aspects of life; good decisions-making being an essential requirement —the street game provided the same decision-making opportunities to players for the game of football.
The gradual loss of the street game and the qualities it had was due to economic modernization gradually ‘devouring’ the old, established playing areas in cities and towns throughout the country; in conjunction with this was the arrival of ‘formal’ coaching methods as the modern replacement of the street ‘chaos’ game. As a dedicated street player myself in London’s East End during the 1940’s and 50’s I later became a ‘victim’ of academic coaching methods when I entered the professional game. When I moved into coaching as an occupation I decided to find a different approach —- a way of using the old and combining it with a new coaching method; Practice-Playing was my concept of incorporating the past with the present/future in a modern form.
For a footballer there is nothing more enjoyable than playing the game, therefore, practice must ‘imitate’ the game as near as possible. The joy of playing for hours in the street has to be replicated in practises for all ages and all levels of the game. Football has to be taught and practised in a different way to remedy the huge loss of ‘practice time’ that was previously given over to the street game. I have said for many years that the game of football is a game of skill not technique! The over- use of technical practice has produced players with a lack of competitive awareness — long-term technical practice methods have not produced individual playing ability allied to game understanding — these are essential ingredients in a footballer’s ‘locker’ if entry into the highest levels of the game is to be achieved. The loss of practice time must be overcome by better use of the time available. Individual techniques must be learned in competitive situations to ‘weld’ it into the skills the game needs. Football is a competitive game and the associated skills to play it must be introduced in a gradually controlled and realistic (competitive) manner so that learning practises satisfy the actual playing requirements of the game.
TECHNIQUE IS ACTION WITHOUT INTERFERENCE: SKILL IS ACTION WITH INTERFERENCE…………………..
Football is a game of interference (Competitive challenge) therefore, unless we practice what the game demands (practice what’s played) we will continue to play the game without the necessary skills and awareness to play it well.
Coaching must relinquish the ‘classroom, structured mentality’ that has beset our development methods since the tragic demise of street football and begin to provide players with the correct ‘tools for the job’— a realistic learning pathway forward!