Ask any five to eight year old to turn left, turn right, jump up, turn round or carry out any other instruction you choose to give and they will do it, without hesitation, without question. It is almost like teaching ‘parrot fashion’.
Probably the two words children mostly hear are ‘no’ and ‘stop’. There’s not a problem in using these as they are required but at the end of the day these are negative words and the less you can use them, the better it is.
I believe it is better and more beneficial to a young player and even senior one to ask the question ‘why’. If you put the onus on the player it allows the coach to understand the way a player interprets the game and for me it does not inhibit him or her expressing themselves.
For example if you see a child always toe poke the ball and on occasions the ball reaches its target, whether to a player or into the goal, it is wrong to tell him/her to stop doing it.
You ask why they do it and explain the benefits of what it achieves but also you teach them the benefits of using other parts of the foot and why you use that part. For if you tell a child ‘no’ don’t toe poke the ball, it is wrong, then you take something away from them.
If you consistently do that with players you will end up with a hard working player by the time they reach the latter stages of youth football and the beginning of adult football.
The expression, the ability to improvise, the arrogance and cockiness will have been coached out of them.
In this country coaches and managers start labelling footballers from the age of 7 in terms of where they can play. “He’s a defender, she’s a striker, he’s a midfielder etc;” Its total madness and when you watch a match between say a group of eight year olds playing 5-a-side or 7-a-side, you will see how this labelling works.
The players, who have been told to play at the back, remain at the back throughout the game. Their job? To defend of course. So next time you go and watch a game at youth level, whether you are a parent, coach or just interested observer, watch how many times you see the goalkeeper give the player at the back the ball. Usually it is kicked out and then at that point the so called defenders game begins. It’s at that point he/she is told to be wary of an attack and to break up the play by either putting in a tackle or heading the ball should it come near them.
The child continues to play in this position year after year and during training emphasis turns to tackling, to marking, to heading, to being strong and physical.
This is simply over coaching a young player to play in a specific position decided by a manager or coach.
Should a child not be allowed to play in several areas of the pitch throughout his or her life?
In what areas does a player need to be clever and smart? You have to be clever if you play wide, if you play up front and in midfield. In these areas you will have to learn tricks, learn to improvise, and learn to be expressive.
So would it not be of benefit to a child to be allowed to play in these areas of a pitch during a game.
Are there actual positions in 5-a-side football? In 7-a-side football?
The word position should not be mentioned, the word rotation and the explanation of that to players is what should be used.
By the time where positions are necessary isn’t it better to have someone who is comfortable on the ball whatever position they play in because they have been allowed to express and learn the game with an open mind, without restrictions but most importantly without fear.
Let children play with smiles on their faces, let them express and enjoy, when coaching think like them, guide them but do not dictate.
There is a reason why we never produce a Maradona, Pele,
Cruyff, Ronaldo, Messi etc; and it’s nothing to do with the
weather or beaches!!