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Wise words!!

by on Apr.24, 2018, under News

Some wise words follow from Level 2 Coach, Wayne Homer: –

Why don’t you start with your strongest team and if we’re 4 nil up, then make changes”?

“Don’t change the team when it’s a close game”

Just two of the many things that people have said to me over the last 6 years whilst I have been involved in grassroots football.

I can understand people wanting to win, that’s the aim of the game after all, but when it comes to grassroots football, in particular non-competitive grassroots football, I think there is a lot more to consider than the score at the end of the match.

When I started out coaching an under 9s team back in 2011/12, “philosophy” wasn’t the buzz word it is today. So despite not specifically writing down how I intended to work with the team, it was always my intention to create a fun, safe and enjoyable environment in the hope this would give the players the best possible chance of developing as footballers.

In order to achieve my aim, it was important that everyone associated with the team was aware of the approach we wanted to take. A meeting was called for all the parents and players and they were informed that we would adopt an equal minute approach with all players having the same chance of playing and thus getting lots of opportunities to learn and develop in game situations.

Along with an equal minutes approach I felt it was important for all players to learn how to play in different positions. I have never thought it my right to dictate where a player should play or “pigeon hole” someone so young and restrict their chance of experiencing all aspects of the game. They would have enough time to find this out for themselves later in life.

All players, including the goalkeeper, would therefore rotate positions throughout the season.

We would play different formations as well to mix up how we played and challenge the players.

My reasons for communicating this was so people had the chance to decide if they wanted to be involved in the team adopting this approach. I am aware that this route will not suit everyone and I think it is only right they have the choice to play in an environment which suits their aspirations.

Fortunately, everyone bought into the route we wanted to take and we had an enjoyable first season with every member of the squad scoring at least one goal, having a go in goal and captaining the side as a reward for being player of the match the previous week.

Social events were arranged for both parents and players and there was a real feeling of inclusion within the team.

Sadly, some players did choose to leave at the end of the first season in order that they could “play to win” in a higher division and this was a decision which we respected and brought other players in to give them the chance to play.

We continued the approach as we entered the 9 v 9 format and found it difficult playing against teams that played to win, leaving subs on the side not getting games until they were comfortable in the game and playing their strongest team at all times.

Team talks began to become difficult when trying to convince the squad (and parents) to stick with it, along with our wish to “play out from the back” as things would change as we grew older together and results would improve.

“I have never thought it my right to dictate where a player should play or “pigeon hole” someone so young and restrict their chance of experiencing all aspects of the game.”
We continually spoke to the players about how they felt about things and agreed to tweak the player rotation slightly by introducing blocks of positions so players would play a block of 3-4 games in a particular position before changing to try and get a little bit of continuity within our play. This helped players learn from mistakes from previous games in the same position rather than take them out of that position so not being able to make a different choice in similar situations the next game.

As we entered our third season we were now starting to show that we could hold our own, benefiting from the rotation of positions and allowing all players game time to keep improving. We started to get positive results whilst playing some nice football and started to reverse results against teams that had taken advantage of our approach a couple of years before.

Players who had previously chosen to leave had asked to come back to the team which was another pat on the back for the route we had taken.

It was the move into the 11 v 11 game that really saw our approach bear fruit, with the players excelling as a team and really showing their versatility in different positions. This allowed us to change formations with ease and ask the players to fulfil different tasks within the team structure without hindrance.

Players who had been slower to pick things up at the under 9 and 10 age groups were now confident players who had come into their own and were contributing to games in a big way, which was a good indicator that you should never pass judgement on players at the younger age groups. Players develop at different times and if good habits are given to players they can come through and improve with some patience.

Results were far more favourable and again teams that had comfortably beaten us in previous years were now back in our division and not able to get the better of us.

One of the biggest results from it all was seeing that out of the original 10 players we took on at under 9s we still have 6 players (not including the two that left and asked to come back) playing for the team in addition to those that have joined us as we entered different formats of the game.

I hope that every one of the players who have played for the team throughout the 5 years has benefitted in some way from the approach we have taken and even those that have chosen to move on will at very least be able to say that they could play in different positions, so giving them a greater chance of contributing to their new team.

I often look back and think whether I would do anything differently if I had the chance with the younger age group again and I can honestly say that apart from the odd tweak here or there, i wouldn’t.

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