Are our kids really that poor technically or is there something else...

The usual welcome for grassroots teams



There has been some very interesting and lively debate both locally and nationally about the state of the game, especially after the world witnessed the talents of the Barcelona team in defeating England’s finest, Manchester Untied, in the Champions League Final.


There have been lots of suggestions made – grass-roots coaches need to be developed into better coaches in order to have the skills to develop better players; coaches need to adapt their methods; we should look at what the Spanish do; players should play mini soccer for longer; parents should curb their competitive enthusiasm on the touch-line; Academy’s should look to harness more British players rather than looking abroad to find talent; and, finally, our current role models are not role models for up and coming players.


Looking deeper, I agree with some of the arguments, it’s evident that we need, not better, but braver coaches who will stick to their guns under fire and insist that development comes before competition. Important. We should look at other countries for ideas about how they structure their games, but let’s not forget that we have many fantastic coaches in this country, already doing good things. All these are good arguments and it is clear that these issues need to be addressed, nationally, and resolved for the good of the game and the development of football in this country.


One area that does seem to be overlooked, as everyone focuses on the development of technique for our young players, at, I think, a significant peril to the grassroots game is the state of the facilities which we are asking our young players to train in.


The scene on a Saturday and Sunday morning across the country is very predictable. Young players turn up to the playing fields, no changing facilities or if there are some then they have either been vandalised or are in an unfit state to use. The condition of the pitches, generally, are very poor with council’s making cut backs that mean that I’ve had teams who have played on ‘cow fields’ where the grass is so long that some of the smaller players can not be seen or there are no pitch markings at all. The goalposts, rust covered, and wonky add to the comic scene on arrival.


With the current economic climate, many council’s have decided to cut back and not mow the grass when required, not mark the lines every week and indeed have even decided to convert playing areas into wild areas that require no financial output as the trees and grass run wild. So, where do our young players learn their trade?


What’s the scene look like abroad? Even local provisional towns have their own community facilities which normally consist of an all-weather floodlight surface (surely a must for this country, with the climate we have), a changing area with facilities for parents to watch and socialise, usually in a parent-run cafe/bar, no vandalism, all maintained and providing their players and families a fantastic facility in which to develop.


Next time you go abroad, you will see these facilities in most towns. They provide a safe and secure environment for players to learn, they are user-friendly and create a brilliant community spirit. Young players, who start using the facilities at 3 or 4, when they go along with older siblings, respect their surroundings so that by the time they hit the troublesome teen years, they know what the facility means to the local community and them and why it is so important that in a moment of boredom they don’t deface or destroy the property.


For young players in this country to fulfil their potential we need a coordinated approach to facilities – governing bodies, the government and local clubs all working together for the good of the local community.


Give the game the facilities it deserves to enable coaches to develop the best talent possible.