Friday, 20 October 2017

12 Rules for FA Youth Football

I applaud the people that constantly search for a better way of developing players and ultimately aim to improve our national team’s results in major tournaments. So I was very interested to see this latest FA 12 Rules as a result of the youth review.
The overall objective of this review was outlined as follows.

To make football ‘calmer and safer’. I don’t think any person would argue with that being something that should be under constant ongoing review.
They want to create the ‘right environment for faster development’.  Ok, faster development could accelerate learning and maybe have a better end product. Only thing I would say is there isn’t a fast way to reach 21 years old. Ultimately, that will take 21 years.
The rules will ‘encourage player to be more skilful’.  I’m happy with that. Provided we understand and identify appropriate skill. For example, I love to see a player that can pass the ball with amazing detail in what he or she can do with its movement, like a golf or cue ball. Skill to me is much more ranging than simply 1v1 step overs and flip flaps.
They want to make matches ‘more competitive’. Great news. Always baffles me how we sanitise competition. Although government now has U turned thankfully and encourages competition in school PE for example. I’m glad about that because children are instinctively competitive. Anyone that has watched their children playing Fifa on Playstation like me can vouch for that. They want to win, then in sport we remove that edge, because the surrounding parents can’t control themselves.

So the rules…

Calmer & Safer
-          Silent Sidelines Rule:- There is nothing worse than hearing aggressive mums and dads shouting out obscene language. Even recently in my academy role a keeper made a really bad mistake. He’s U11. Several parents on the opposition hailed out cackling laughing at his demise and their teams gain. I found that shocking because do you need a rule to just make you a decent person? Having said that is there anything wrong with people shouting “unlucky”, “go on”, “well played”, “good tackle” etc.? It’s now the over sanitisation that does concerns me because then later on when you can’t control the spectator output then the players could freeze rather than learn to block it out and focus. Anyway, I guess its thanks to the like of what I witnessed a couple of weeks ago that this has to come in. I just wish we hit the problem head on, explain to them, “come on, if that was your son in goal, subjected to that, crying on the way home with embarrassment, how would you feel”? On that day there was circa 50 people there, 2 did that horrible thoughtless stupid shouting and 48 more pay the price.
-          Slide Tackle Rule:- My question here would be what medical grounds? Of course there is a risk playing football as with any others. A sliding tackle isn’t exactly encouraged and I’ve never heard a coach ask a player to do it. I think it’s an instinctive reaction to needing to reach the ball when defending and something that needs to be practiced to get right. It’s a form of tackling, maybe one that sometimes goes wrong but in over a 1,000 youth games I’ve never seen a significant injury from this. I’ve seen plenty of players left on the floor and beat and also seen a few good tackles. In adult football of course I’ve seen horror tackles. Just not sure if this is a rule for rules sake.
-          Blue Card Rule:- I’m actually a big fan of the sin bin rule. But the rule could be better in my view. I think in over 1,000 youth games I’ve only ever seen a small handful of booking’s in youth foundation phase grass roots football. I think that’s because the young people are on the whole not sinister in their actions. What I don’t like though is the imitation of the top premier league players and in particular arguing with the referee. We introduced a zero tolerance of even disagreeing with the referee in our own game Fiitball and it worked. Players leave the pitch for 2 minutes and it fixes the problem in a matter of minutes. Teachers said to us that certain players completely changed their usual persona in game situations. I think the sin bin rule for the current set of rules means it will have little affect with the little ones only to actually encourage more ‘bookings’.
-          Respect Marks Rule:- Why not? I don’t mind this and would only be an issue for those not able to control their emotions I guess.

More Skilful
-          Retreat Line Rule:-  I support this and where I have seen it I think it works well to encourage players to get on the ball. It needs more thought though and I’m shocked that it’s one of only two items to make players more skilful. For example I’ve seen this where the centre back gets it, then that player kicks it forward. So, it defeats the object. Also players get better under pressure, so at some point it should be encouraged to work on finding space and improving first touch under pressure. Plus if the keeper never kicks it then he/she is not developing. For example to practice chipping to pass to someone. That isn’t long ball to gain territory.  Thinking completely off the cuff, there could be more realistic ideas that actually help develop players to work off the ball and develop with pressure. Could you mark the pitch into 3 zones? You get two goals counted if you have a player in your team touch the ball in all three zones and score before you lose possession. In an elite environment I would certainly prefer that because I want my players to learn to deal with opposition.
-          Pass back Rule:- I agree and I have heard grass roots managers saying that it shouldn’t apply. I think it’s better to get the children into good habits as early as possible. I agree therefore that this helps the goalkeeper also. But I would take this as a given as it’s consistent with the full rules and to not have it included would not sit right with me. So, I’m not sure where the innovation is here.

Faster Development
-          No Instructions Rule:- I do agree that players do learn better thinking for themselves and coming up with answers to problems and challenges. I now have my own private academy team playing in an U11 and we set them a challenge for each player every week which is a progression of the training topic. The subs then acknowledge every time they achieve that objective and it’s tallied up at the end and openly recorded. We find that this is working and beats bellowing instructions. We may occasionally ask them to think about possible different outcomes or ask them to remember the challenge. That’s about it.
-          Equal Playing Time Rule:- 100% Agree and we have always done this. There is nothing worse than seeing players on the side-line freezing and its worth remembering that players develop at different rates so you could be denying time for a player that could end up being very strong and have further potential. Added to this, recently I was working for a pro academy playing a development centre against a grass roots team and we had 7 players on the side-line. The other team also had a similar number. I said to the coaches, there is a quarter of a pitch over there, spin the goals round and let the kids play on their own. I think we over supervise the children and sometimes over coach. There’s two goals, there is a ball, go and play. The pitch is fenced off. If someone gets hurt they will call us and we can see them in the distance anyway. What are the rules? Who is the ref? Who’s in goal? What is the formation? What decisions do they make? Well do you supervise when they play the PlayStation? No, and no one supervised them playing on the playground either. They sorted it out themselves. For me, subs should be set up in a safe, small game. Much better to play than stand around!
-          All Positions Rule:- I agree that players are ‘pigeon holed’ too quickly and it’s good to try different roles and responsibilities. Even when they get older and certain attributes lend themselves better to certain positions it can still be really useful to try different positions to challenge them. Early on players should be learning core aspects of the game with the ball in ongoing 1v1 situations all over the pitch. Later on they can learn position specific attributes that affect decisions and tactical methods.

More Competition
-          Mixed Teams Rule:- Not wishing to just throw away an idea without rational consideration, but I feel that this is just nonsense and I’ll try to explain why. Well firstly with the work I do in schools there is an obvious gulf in ability within most classrooms. An environment that puts different abilities in core subjects on separate tables or even in different rooms to ensure they share the similar level of development speed and so they can be suitably challenged in order to maximise their potential in that subject. This is clearly evident when you take a class to do PE and that includes football. There is an obvious gulf in physical and technical ability and it makes it very difficult to effectively coach where the lower ability pupils are gaining satisfaction and healthy participation levels whilst the higher ability group are suitably challenged to help them improve. For me this is a very similar situation in football and working as an advisor at different clubs I have seen this first hand when the groups are mixed together. You simply cannot achieve desired outcomes that is good for either end of the scale. Your ability level of the group dictates the level of the session and your set expectations. I think this can lead to disappointment for the players that feel like they are not involved enough and don’t achieve the expected outcome. Players refusing passes etc and them having little success in possession because they are picked off too easily. There are different levels of ability in sport just like there is in other core topics and this takes us back years. It totally undermines the ‘faster development’ objective and more importantly completely undermines the whole elite player performance plan. The EPPP is set out to ensure stronger players get to the better equipped academies and play with and against better opposition thus giving them a so called better chance of success. Surely this applies further down the food chain. Better players could just go stale and don’t have to put too much effort in or challenge themselves greatly. That also makes it harder for scouts to identify the true better talent because they will just be dominating games. Some clubs may well have separate teams of equal ability and typically you see them called reds/greens, tigers/panthers etc. But to make the mixed ability a ‘rule’ concerns me greatly and could end up benefiting neither player at either end of the spectrum.
-          Power Play Rule:- Another very concerning rule. This seems like another rule to counter a bad one in the first place. What I mean by that is if you don’t put competitive teams in similar levels in the same league and class everyone as equal than this will happen and again holds back the advanced players. No one wants teams getting beat 10 nil every week but it’s why teams have to be assessed, graded and pitched together. Some managers could also get to 3 goals and then encourage a striker not to score. Sounds ludicrous but I can see that happening all day long. Having expressed concern over this I have actually done this of my own accord. Our academy centre of excellent team went 4-0 up quickly against a grass roots team and I just took one of my players off. Because I recognised that as much as I don’t see the point of humiliating the opposition, my players are getting absolutely nothing out of it. So I wanted to try and even up the ability advantage. At least we may gain something. In another academy I also played a grass roots team and quickly set playing rules for my players for the same reason. So I’ve actually done this myself, however, making it a rule in grass roots makes it open to being abused and become unrealistic. Much better for me to pitch teams together than can compete and challenge each other. Reality of football, reality of all sport and indeed life.
-          Equal Numbers Rule:- Absolutely 100% To me is more a concern that it needs to be a ‘rule’ surely that’s decency and common sense?

Overall, I agree with some of the rules. Some I think are more common sense and with the odd bit of nonsense chucked in for good measure. Always the way though overall, the vast majority of decent people and parents pay the price for the idiotic senseless minority. We don’t really tackle the real issues head on, instead we change the rules for everyone.

I guess it keeps people in jobs as well though, so well done the FA. I understand this is also being trialed in Manchester so I guess, lets see what the feedback is. Lets give change a chance.


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