Monday, 19 September 2011

FA Changes to Youth Football - The Anonymous Parents Response

Thought I would post a response from a parent to the FA's proposals to youth football, commonly known as 'Your Kids Your Say'.  This is a word for word response from one individual (who wished to remain anonymous) which I thought gave an excellent summary to the common issues in grassroots football.  Below is the original response in full:

Surely the whole point of grass roots coaches is for them to teach as many young children how to learn & enjoy the game of football? The more players we teach properly and manage to keep happy all the way up to 14-15 years old surely the more chance we will have of having a greater amount of top quality footballers?
I would appreciate if everyone reads my feelings below – I think this is something to learn from. I am sure I am not the only one who is disgusted in the way some of our grass roots coaches treat children.
My eldest son enjoys playing football but has always been one of possibly thousands of young children throughout the country who was usually an un-used substitute in competitive matches and was mainly just played in the friendly matches unless, of course, there was nothing to play for at the end of the season, then him and others might get a chance.
When we first joined the club the coach gave it all the usual, ‘it’s about the enjoyment and not the winning’, which was soon forgotten about once it was clear that the team could have a chance of winning the league.
Before we eventually changed clubs, he must have only played in 3 or 4 competitive matches in his last two seasons. I politely & discreetly asked, many times, why my son and others were not being played and not being given an equal opportunity to play, only to be told by the coach that he had a good crop of talented players, and how could he possibly drop talented players for others without the same skill level? I was even told once on the phone that my son was not good enough! All I wanted was for my son and the other less used players to come on from time to time and have a chance – Is this not too much to ask?
I would like to make it clear that I never made my opinions heard from the side lines about any of this; I totally disagree with parents who do that. It was always in private or at parents meetings that I made my points to the coach.
The other problem was that the friendly matches, which were always played straight after the league or cup match, were never really taken that seriously, and there was never the same amount of organisation or interest from the coaches. And many times it was seen more of an opportunity for the coach to try out the first team players in different positions, sometimes even in place of other players who had not yet played!
In one match my son was the only player not to be played, and yet the coach decided to take two players off and put them on again in different positions before he eventually brought my son on in the second half of the friendly game. When I questioned him about this afterwards I was told that his grandson had not had much to do in goal so he thought it was only fair to bring him off and bring him on again in an outfield position instead.
I was very close to sending in an official complaint in to the FA about the club, but thought better of it, thinking that this could have affected my son when moving to secondary school with the same players and felt he could have been picked on. I’m sure there are a multitude of unhappy children & parents all over the country in the same situation. I found that other parents actually agreed with me, but when it came to it, they were not willing to upset the apple cart, and support me even though some of their children were in the same boat.
I also think there is a belief in parents that if they complain themselves of agree with others, that this will affect their own child’s chances. How sad is that, but true!
I spoke to someone at the local FA who was urging me to send a complaint in about this, as this was totally against the way the FA want grass roots football run.
My son has always suffered with low esteem and lacked confidence. But being one of the children that was always last to be picked does not do anything to help this.
Although I always felt the actual training was good, it’s such a shame that children of different levels of skill get less chance than others. It’s not just naturally talented children who make it as good footballers, and children learn at different levels. My son is one of the younger children in his year (being born in Aug) and so this can also have a bearing on development levels. The other sad thing is because of this other children and friends have labelled him now as a bad footballer, which is very upsetting. He has also lost out on two years of competitive football and so is always going to be behind some of his friends. Which is so frustrating?
My son and some of his friends from the same team spent a while attending a local FA Skills after school course once a week. And it was so obvious to me that the brilliant coaches here got so much more out of him and he was a completely different player than when he played for his team at the weekend. He wasn’t far off the same level as some of the better players there. We were all very disappointed when the FA skills had to pull out of our area due to funding problems. Both my boys loved it, and the coaches were absolutely fantastic. Maybe the FA could look to extending this across the country more, making it available to more children and more areas.
Unfortunately my other younger son has just had to change teams due to a similar situation. However when questioning his new coach this weekend and asking if all the children would play – he mentioned that he would probably choose his best 6 players for the first match and the rest would play in the second match. Here we go again?
I feel there are far too many junior coaches in the game that put winning over development – and the funny thing is that these same coaches that think that competition is a very important part in the development of young children are the same ones who choose the best players week in week out, and want to sign up as many of the best players in the area to replace the less talented players and therefore end up winning games by 6, 7 or more goals – How is that competitive!? There was one game which my elder sons team won about 8-0 and only 1 or 2 subs were made, when there was 5 or 6 disappointed subs.
My elder son has now moved to another team and the coach is much better, all players get a chance and I really don’t mind when my son doesn’t play in a game as this usually means that other players are getting a chance. We actually came second in the league and all players and parents were kept happy, so it can be done!
I agree with 9v9 at U-11 level, but this should be brought in now, why wait? I understand that this might be difficult to implement though due to the marking out of these different sized pitches.
Although I acknowledge that children do have a natural winning mentality and thrive on competition – I also agree with just having friendly matches until the age of around 10 or 11 – In the end of the day children will still want to win each match, so the competitiveness will always be there, but I think leagues put too much pressure on players and coaches and this also forced coaches to play their best players as they have important games to win in order to keep them top of the league. I think there is far too much pressure to win games from some coaches and some parents. I also like some of the ideas of Futsal especially stopping defenders from being tackled so they can actually learn to play and pass the ball rather than being told to ‘get rid’ all of the time. Surely this will teach children more skill and give them more time on the ball which will help the game in the long run.
I also think we desperately need change the football season calendar or have a 6-8 week break over the Dec-Jan period. The amount of time my son has been on the sideline freezing cold only to come on and not be able to run or play properly because he is so cold and wet. The conditions and state of the pitches these kids have to play on, because of bad weather, is disgusting and can only put children off. The state of the pitches in icy, wet or muddy conditions can’t help the quality of the football either. Look at warmer countries like Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and Italy just to mention a few. They are all naturally more gifted and the weather must have something to do with it.
Come on FA sort this out sooner rather than later.


  1. Agree with it. All of it. Change is coming I hope.

  2. I enjoyed reading this, well written Thank You

  3. Wenger is quoted on weather in Marcotti's book with Vialli: The Italian Job. I agree with him. We insist on playing through the winter. The pitches are awful, you play a certain way to deal with it. Hoof it get it off the deck it's too sticky to pass. It's so cold you got to get young kids running around like crazy to keep warm. You can't hang around for a debrief after, it's freezing. So no chance to discuss what went wrong and what went right. It's no surprise we are where we are. Come a world cup in warmer clime no chance, we can't even win won in comparable weather (South Africa). Long way to go.