Grassroots Coaching

Paying the Penalty for a Flawed System

Don’t blame the boys, it was their upbringing!

In the days after our defeat in Kiev, the talk centred on England’s inability to win penalty shootouts. That’s a red herring. An honest analysis of England’s four matches would focus on a more fundamental problem. An inability to keep possession of the ball and complete simple 5 yard passes under pressure.

Bill Shankley said “Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.” So why can’t English players do it? Are there are too many foreign players at our top clubs? Do we play too many games in a season? Are players so highly paid that they have lost their desire?

It’s not any of those things, nor can the problem be fixed between now and the world cup in Brazil in 2014. We need to turn away from the Premiership and look at the roots of our game. Good habits are learnt early in life and football is no different. The kick and rush we saw in Ukraine is the by-product of how youth football has been played in this country for generations.

The emphasis is on winning matches and medals not on technique and game craft.

Youth Football is the only leisure activity where it is deemed acceptable for a group of (often unrelated) adults to shout instructions at young children. Is it any wonder that young players get rid of the ball as soon as possible, never having the opportunity to develop the confidence that will help them keep possession and play a pass?  Improvement in football comes through making mistakes and learning from them.

The FA has proposed the introduction of 5 a-side games for under 7’s & 8‘s. The current 7 a side format will continue until U11 when players switch to a 9 a side matches. Playing small sided games is a welcome, if overdue, initiative but there is much more that could and should be done to improve grassroots youth football.

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