By John Cartwright
Back in the days of thick, muddy, football pitches the game had players who were capable of performing its individual and team skills irrespective of the conditions. Today, even with the pristine surface, players are in my opinion, less able to reproduce the individualism and team-play of the past.
There are numerous examples of both ‘lost individual skills and team-play’; suitable Passing speeds – Dribbling – Heading – Crossing – Running with the ball stand-up Tackling and gathered Sliding Tackles – are missing from the repertoire of so many of our players whilst, Team-play – lacks space appreciation – 2v1 options – Take-overs – Positional rotations etc. Why have these individual and team ‘arts’ of the game disappeared only to be replaced by ‘robotic’, boring mediocrity?
Well, the answer is easy —- POOR COACHING ….. it can’t be anything else!
Prior to the introduction of coaching the game, playing it at every opportunity in different settings, on different surfaces and competitively with differing numbers of players was the way it was learned. Those thousands of REALISTIC practice/playing hours have gone, only to be replaced by mini sessions of ORGANISED academic/mediocrity.
I have been lucky, perhaps unlucky, to have lived through the whole period of coaching here in the UK. Since it began in the early 1950’s I have watched individual skills be replaced by basic, unrealistic technique practises and games of all numberings be driven by coach organisation and not by player observation and decision-making. I have seen cleverness at individual and team levels reduced to clumsy, aggressive scrappiness and this is supposed to be the way forward……well, I don’t think so!
During my football lifetime I have been fortunate to see so many of the real greats of the game, both of British and Foreign stock. The opportunity to have been involved in the game and acquire a passion for development has given me the opportunity to ‘play with the game’, and in so doing, visualise a ‘total’ playing quality and to formulate a practical ‘pathway’ to achieve it. Premier Skills Coaching Methods, is a ‘coaching pathway’ from junior to senior level of the game – It is about teaching the game in realistic stages towards a flexible, playing style.
With each season, I have watched and criticised the loss of English talent; yes, without doubt we could easily compete against the best in the world if our players had been developed along a better pathway. There has been too much emphasis on academic-styled teaching methods whilst practises with progressive realism have been disregarded in favour of practical organisation. This organised teaching concept entered the coaching domain from the very earliest days as educationists dictated development. There has been a consistent effect on the game over the years as the look of practises has become more important than their realistic playing content.
The FA Coaching schemes over the years have failed miserably
to connect with the actual playing requirements of the game. Academics, schooled in classroom methods and not Professional football standards, have lead coaching along numerous, unrealistic pathways. The lack of establishing a playing vision for our game has been, and still is, a major mistake in coaching in this country and In its place, we have continually ‘copycatted’ other successful nations. Success has not followed but we still see the same ‘academic hierarchy’ in control of coaching and development here.
In a recent ‘Blog’ – There has to be a better way …. I have mentioned the lack of continuity between practice and playing throughout the whole of our development years. This single issue is so important if players from junior to senior levels are to progressively acquire the skills in conjunction with a sound understanding of the game. At all levels of learning, practises must be immediately followed by games played that reflect practical work. If one does not combine with the other, ability and understanding will be seriously affected and player progress reduced.
Throughout all levels of football learning here, this combination of practice/playing is not recognised and accordingly, we pay a terrible price in lost talent.
The streets, debris and school playgrounds used to be the ‘Wembley’s for millions upon millions of kids and they produced players with skill and understanding here as well as throughout the world. What a great shame for our game that the lush, pristine greenery of playing surfaces of today— such an improvement on the rough, muddy grounds of yesteryear – are seemingly unable to provide the backdrop for quality players to play quality football – all because we can’t teach the game properly!