Coaching in a school is tricky because the challenge is achieving effective results when there is such a range of abilities. So, yesterday I decided to put them in small teams of 4/5 and just let them play. At 8 this seemed to be the best way to get them on the ball as often as possible and then I can watch and devise a coaching plan from there.
One boy began to stand out. He happens to also be a bit silly and excitable and would be one that is a regular that requires attention. But bearing in mind my previous blog about eccentric behaviour its worth looking beyond that. http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/is-eccentric-sign-of-bad-behaviour.html
He was addressing the ball with all surfaces, beating people easily, passing & receiving with excellent technique. He seemed predominantly right footed. Then a ball came across his body in the air, he adjusted his body, arched his back and half volley scissors kicked the ball with laces into the top corner...with his left foot. Now I want to find out more. I called him out and asked him a favour. There was a ball behind the goal and I asked if he could go get it and kick it to me. Really I was interested in which foot he used. He chipped and curled it back with his left foot. But, he spent most of the game on his right. I found another opportunity and began a little game one on one. We played a little passing game. I passed the ball to him and he should pass it back to me. Which ever foot was closer he would receive on and he would pass it with the other. He was equally comfortable on both. OK, could have a 'player' here. What a buzz it is to see natural talent like that. Then came the massive punch in the stomach in the conversation that followed...
Tony: "So who do you play for"?
Player: "I don't play for anyone any-more"
Tony: "Ok, (cautious about possible background circumstances) have you ever played for a team or just play for the school team"?
Player: "I did play for (local club) and then I was scouted and went to play for (pro club) but they released me because I think I messed about and they said I wasn't good enough".
Tony: (deep breath)..."and can you go back and play for the local club"?
Player: "No, I don't play any-more because my mum and dad said I'm not going to be a footballer because I mess about and (pro club) said I'm not good enough anyway"
I dont know where to start on this as it was by far the most upsetting thing iv'e heard in football. Its a hugely disturbing example of the state of our game on so many levels. Of course you would question the parents and seemingly there understanding of taking part in football is for the sole purpose of being a professional footballer. Secondly I have wrote before about the impact we have on players when they are released http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/when-player-is-released-is-it-all-down.html This player has walked away at 8 years old and decided that not only is his football career is over but his whole football experience at any level is over.
I also think about why he was released. Could naivety and lack of experience not enabled the coaches to see beyond his so called behaviour problem http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/is-eccentric-sign-of-bad-behaviour.html Was he difficult to handle and the easy option was to let him go?
This lads experience of football at such an early age is an absolute disgrace and it leads me to question if having children of such young age in pro clubs is overall good for our game or in fact damaging long term? Do we have actual proof that have players this young in the pro system actually works? Should we be giving parents early dreams of a superstar footballer son so early?
Maybe all children of KS 1&2 years should remain at local clubs and schools as a rule. This would ensure they simply enjoy football with no pressure. Clubs would then have a big incentive to have good relationships with grass roots and provide coaching workshops ensuring players still get quality development. Then and if they are deemed elite at KS3 parents can choose where they go based on what they have seen and experienced in those early years.