By John Cartwright
Wealth and luxury are not necessities when it comes to the playing and learning of the game of football. The pristine surfaces and first-class dressing rooms may be more of a drag on development than providing a positive feature. The expensive and often remote training centres (Hubs) that are to be constructed are not, in my opinion, the way forward for ‘natural’ development. They are not close to family homes and will not be easily/quickly available for the use of individuals or groups.
I mentioned recently in an earlier ‘Blog’ of the need for more small practice areas to be constructed by Local Councils in which youngsters could practice/play various ball sports. Local Councils throughout this country have numerous unusable small sites that are of no use for general building purposes. These sites, sensibly selected for maximum use by local kids and without disturbance to local residents, could be the answer to many social and sports’ problems we face today.
The empty streets and open spaces of the past have disappeared and with them a huge loss of practice/playing time for thousands of youngsters. Those areas must be re-invented today to provide a modernised version of street-type ‘chaos’ learning of sports’. Selected areas should be chosen that are close enough to local homes so parents can feel assured their children are secure amongst their friends.
Unless we create more time and opportunity for our youngsters from 6-16 to practice/play their sport they will never appreciate the importance of consistent learning whilst playing and how this has a positive effect on their playing standards.
The Small Playing Area.
Keeping in mind what I have already described as important features for this type of area, their construction should be simple but solidly built.
The actual area size should be between min.15 to max.20 yards square. A wall should surround the area, preferably of brickwork, but built with anything that provides a solid, flat surface that has a height of approx. 10 feet and have an entry/exit opening. Flooring should be of smooth concrete to avoid care costs and to make players more appreciative of balance in sport!
Target areas could be painted on the walls and netless basketball rings could be set on walls. Lines could be painted on the concrete floor to section off different areas. According to numbers of players the area could provide a single playing area or two half size areas, whilst players practising separately could use the walls as rebound surfaces. For night-time use a single light that covered the whole area would be all that was necessary. The light should be covered with a wire to protect it from both damage from balls or interference from hoodlums.
Throughout the time in an area described, young players could spend lots of time practising their technical work alone or hone their skills in a realistic, competitive small-sided game.