Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Is the playground culture really a great place to nuture skills?

David ClarkeI was reading an article at the weekend bemoaning the loss of playing football in playgrounds at schools around the country as one of the reasons the youth players of today do not have the skills or fitness of the good old days.
It reminded me of watching a group of boys in the playground of my son’s school and how they sorted themselves out for a game of football.
It was all “John and I are the best players so we can pick the teams”. And I saw and felt the embarrassment of the last player to be picked. “You can have him – no you have him.” That boy ended up in goal – fitness and skills did not feature in his life that afternoon – what will he think of football when he’s older?
Being in goal between a pair of jumpers is in reality a nightmare.
“That was in!!”
“No it wasn’t!”
And so on
On the plus side it created two even teams but it was only a couple of players on each team who had the ball and passed it to each other.
This is why good coaches like you and I can have a huge difference in the lives of a lot of children. I’m sick of hearing from various figures on TV (and from my father-in-law) that coaching at youth level has nothing to do with the kids anymore. And that it was much better in ‘the old days’ when boys picked teams and organised themselves. The ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ era of skills and innocence where boys flourished into footballing idols – and England won everything… or not.
A lot of what we do as coaches is give children the chance to play in teams, the chance to play up front or midfield or at the back. And giving someone a chance in life is a great gift to give – we change the lives of children and nurture their love of football.


2 Comments so far
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In reality, youth sport needs to be a mix of the two environments – but I’ve taken the tact that part of my practice with my U6 and U8 teams is to help kids learn to play the game themselves without adult intervention. This means part of practice is free-play of the game – kids deciding who the ball went out on, restarting play, and solving disputes. My input is the basic rules of the game – the field size, the team size and the goalkeepers/no goalkeepers (I always have no goalkeepers for our practice Small sided games.)

I’ve also scheduled pick up games for our broad age group (age 5-11) in our community. A few older players sprinkled in has helped provide some leadership and authority on the field.

In the end, the kids will usually make good decisions about how to run their game – because they come to understand that if the games are unfair or one side takes advantage of the other, the game comes to an abrupt end when the mis-treated side walks off the pitch and goes home.

I’ve also observed games at our school during lunch hour – and noticed that huge packs of boys will play something on the order of 10v10 or more! It’s chaotic, and everyone has limited time on the ball but surely there are some players who are being attracted to the game through these interactions.

Comment by Dennis Murray

I agree I’m some respect it’s better to kids take charge and organise between them a good honest game of football. I’d like to add to that though about the weakest player as its something I don’t believe in and to be honest detest, I don’t like it when when my players arrange them selves in to ability wise teams I feel as though it knocks the confidence of the “weaker” ones so this may be right or wrong but I drum in to there heads that no one is better than any one else and on any given day any child can shine. I feel as coaches we need to remember that kids devolp at different times and the lad who may be the best now will soon get caught up with ability

Comment by Lee venturi

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