Its been a while since my last blog, and although I would like to write more often, I usually only get my thoughts down on certain matters that strike me at the time as being something to discuss and get the opinions of others.
With that said, please feel free to leave some feedback that is either positive or indeed that will make me question my own thought process. #growthmindset
Four years ago I returned back to Minis coaching (5-10 year olds) after a few years of working with older age groups.
There have been some terrific changes and developments in this Foundation Phase, for example, better organised Minis festivals; better links between clubs and coaches for development fixtures; and most of the time much better environments where youngsters feel safe learning the game.
Some things have remained constant. Kids enthusiasm! Their passion and desire to play with their friends; to have fun; and in some cases to improve and be better.
An area in particular that I would like to discuss is one that has also been a constant here in Jersey. I’m not sure how this should be addressed, nor indeed if it has too.
However, I feel it is something that would be interesting to put out their for parents and coaches to digest and talk about. If not on this thread, at least amongst our footballing community.
I have spent many years gaining experience coaching at Mini’s football at St.Pauls FC, Grouville FC and more recently GS United FC starting way back in the early noughties up until present date, and this issue was the same back then as it is now.
The issue I would like to discuss is that of Mini’s players being able to train and play for numerous clubs within the same season.
I have seen in my time individuals training for 2 or 3 different clubs throughout the season which in turn has seen them play for a different team each time a festival or development fixture is organised.
For me, there are challenges around this that impact on three areas.
1. The Player themselves
2. The Players Parents
3. The Club and Coaches
The player just wants to play. All of the time.
And will more than likely take up the opportunity to play anywhere they are offered too. As they just want to play.
They fall in the love the game and we as coaches and parents hopefully help them foster a life long love of the sport. And rightly so.
The issue of playing for different clubs though is highlighted as a problem when the player, a young child is caught in the middle. Effectively having their emotions pull in a tug-of-war contest of having to choose between which set of friends he wants to play with and not wanting to upset other friends in their other team. Or indeed choosing which coach he wants to play for or which club he likes the most.
It’s a tough thing to see. I’ve witnessed youngsters in turmoil over making these choices. Lets not forget we are talking about players who are 6,7,8,9,10 years old. Littleuns.
THE PLAYERS PARENTS
9 out of 10 player’s parents simply do not know, what they don’t know. That is in no sense a derogatory comment. Instead, my point is, the parents may never have been through this type of situation before would not have the experience or knowledge of the impact having their child play for numerous clubs could have.
From the Parent’s perspective, all they wish is for their child to play more football, and as parents we want to provide this. More football is easily accessible by playing at different clubs and therefore an easy option.
However as easy as this decision is at the time, it takes us back to the impact on ‘The Player’ as stated above.
THE CLUB AND COACHES
The understanding of the footballing provision can be under estimated as not many parents/supporters really see what goes on behind the scenes at their local football clubs.
The club point of view is to ensure the smooth running of the club through up to date administration, including the Club Constitution, that Committee members, Coaches and all other workforce at the club are providing best practice. All mandatory requirements are fulfilled to provide a safe, secure and fun learning environment to look after the most treasured gift - our Children.
Coaches put in numerous hours developing themselves through coaching courses, CPD events, Coaches meetings, session planning and session evaluations to provide the best possible football education for young players in their care.
In turn, this football education to all players is inclusive and helps young players foster friendships too. The dedication and personal investment coaches have in supporting young players be the best they can be whilst helping youngsters form a real team spirit with their friends is an incredible thing.
The impact is now not only the individual that is playing for different clubs, but the ripple effect is now impacting on his teammates whom they have been training with.
Team mates would be asking questions as to why one of the friends “is playing for another team when they train with us”.
With this in mind, it takes us back again to the impact on ‘The Player” as stated above.
In my opinion, on some level all the of the above stress and anxiety placed on the young player could easily be avoided by an open and honest conversation between parents and coaches before the player is given the green light to train and play for other teams.
Let me be clear, this is not something new. Every season I have been involved in Mini’s football this has happened. For some reason this season it has happened more often. Some at my own club and some that I know of playing at other clubs.
My own take on the situation is that I am all for players gaining more contact time with the football in healthy practice environments. I do however have the stipulation that if one of our players trains with another club, that the player shows commitment and loyalty to our club in terms of representing us at festivals, fixtures and other events during the current season.
The reasons are above. With the most important one being the impact of having to make a very difficult choice being taken away from a very young child from the start.
Guidance and advice provided in collaborative approach with coaches and parents’ working together is always readily available, and from my coaching staffs point of view, with a clear purpose and understanding that will support the development of the child/player.
Not only in a football sense, but also developing positive characteristics such as sportsmanship, teamwork, loyalty and respect too.
Another possible solution may be that the Jersey Football Combination reviews this situation. At this moment in time I do not believe there is any appetite for Mini’s player registrations from the governing bodies, FA, JFA and JFC.
Would this potentially solve the above issues, maybe, maybe not.
Whilst also looking at it with a holistic approach, this would also reduce some reputation damage of certain clubs and certain coaches that are seen to “encourage” the better players to join them throughout the season. Mini’s players would have to follow the rules like players in Under 11s football upwards and would not be allowed to train or player for another club unless they requested a transfer like in the older age groups. It’s just a thought.
My knowledge, experience and belief allows me to be confident enough to trust our players, trust our parents and trust our coaching team. We believe we are doing the right things for all concerned. Not everyone might agree, and do we get it wrong at times, certainly. However this belief in what we do helps families and young players involved with our philosophy to understand and respect our perspective.
For any parents reading this, if your youngster wants to train and play for more than one club, I hope this gives you some pause for thought and some guidance on how you might handle the situation.
For any coaches out there, I would be interested in hearing you thoughts on this debate.
And if the JFC is listening, what’s your view?