By John Cartwright
Our Coaching and Development Programs, past and present, have set learning targets far too low throughout the development years. Consequently, by the age of 16+ our young players are only capable of producing mediocre standards –excellence and ‘greatness’ are unattainable.
The ‘Golden Years of Game Learning’, have not been a time in which our young players have received a sound football education and on reaching senior levels of the game they are forced to rely largely on physical qualities to ‘camouflage’ their serious lack of skill and game understanding.
Any subject, Academic, Sporting etc. should engage children in a progressive, learning ‘pathway’ from Nursery to University – some may attain the ultimate status, whilst many will have only reached various lower levels but all should be given the best chance of reaching the top should they wish to. There are questions asked regarding the lowering of standards for subjects in our national education system with the gradual ‘dumbing-down’ of exam. levels mentioned and this has caused regular friction between Govts. and Teaching Unions on the matter over the years.
Our national game has experienced similar destructive influences on development with criticism concerning coaching methods from various sources over a long period. After the demise of ‘chaos learning’ acquired from practice-playing in street games the introduction of ‘structured coaching and development methods’ has never recaptured the reality and spontaneity of street football thus, playing standards have been compromised to such an extent that the game is ‘hyped’ to raise mediocre playing standards to false, higher levels.
By the age of 16 a young player should have acquired substantial ability to play the game; physical maturity, further playing experience and social interactions are still ahead but in the main, the rough ‘diamond’ needs only to be polished before it is set in gold and displayed to the waiting football world.
We cannot produce the ‘dazzling diamonds’; at best our so-called diamonds are only to be used for hard labour – industrial usage! Our game is stockpiled with domestic football ‘labourers’ that are used to support the ‘stars’ from abroad. These ‘imported players’ have developed through either (i) a poverty background or (ii) through expert football development methods. ‘Poverty produces players’ is a true statement and can clearly be recognized here in the past with street footballers and still continues today with players from some of the world’s poorest countries; or from long term development structures in countries like Holland, Germany and Spain where excellence, even greatness is an attainable target.
Our football targets have been set far too low for too long. Academics over the years, not true football people, have invaded our world of football development and made it a classroom, ‘choreographed’ show that requires mundane, group organization above individual brilliance. The coaching hierarchy have introduced a ‘robotic’ playing presence into our game —- an ‘amateur’ lack of quality — a mediocre, boring ‘sameness’ — from junior to senior levels.
Billions of TV money is being given to the English Premier League; where will it all go? Irrespective of so-called promises of some of it for junior usage, the vast majority will be eaten up with increased salaries and transfer fees etc. Facilities may see some of the cash but without a quality teaching methodology that has a ‘pathway’ to excellence we might as well return to bare feet and a tennis ball for better ‘home-grown’ players for our game.