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A ‘Grassroots’ perspective of Junior Soccer

Much has been spoken about, discussed in detail and documented over recent times about the lack of technically gifted, skilful English, and indeed, British players performing at the highest level in our game today.

Considering the vast numbers of children participating the question has to be asked why more players are not progressing through from grassroots. Surely quantitative is no substitute for quality.

A widely debated reason is that the importatation of many young foreign players is restricting the development and stifling the opportunities for our home grown charges.

This is despite the fact that Clubs have invested millions in the setting up of Development Centres, Schools of Excellence, Academies and the new Elite Player Performance Plan which adheres to a strict criteria for having suitably qualified coaches who have the responsibility for nurturing and developing our ‘stars’ of the future.

To have a future vision perhaps we should re-visit the past and try to reason why…………….

In the 50’s and 60’s players learnt to play soccer in the streets, parks and playgrounds and this was the foundation of self development – Kids played with a small ball (usually a tennis ball) on their way to and from school, during morning and lunch breaks, day in and day out. There were no adults, parents and coaches involved in this ‘street’ concept, the children self-learnt aspects of the game - technique, skill, decision making, tactics and fitness were developed playing informally in this fun and un- restricted way.

Aged, the situation has completely changed in our modern times. Streets are too dangerous and crowded, many parks and school playgrounds are now no-go ball areas as we become obsessed by Political Correctness and Health & Safety issues. Council signs ‘Ball Games Prohibited’ – we’ve lost the wall - gone are the learning opportunities Striking with both feet, receiving (control in the air on the ground - In the playground –dribbling, running with/without the ball, passingdecision making

There are, of course, many more activities now on offer - other sports – hobbies –TV- electronic games etc…etc…

So where is the best place to be able to recreate the ‘street’ concept, surely it must be at the Grassroots levels at Junior Clubs and Primary Schools, initially targeting children aged 5 – 11 years old and then moving up the age ranges? We at Wright Football are looking at ways of supporting and helping the Junior Clubs and Primary School Teachers. These areas may well be the first contact with the sport of soccer for many young children and therefore it should be enjoyable and fun. Game related activities focussing on the ABC’s (agility, balance and co-ordination) should be a key priority in the learning process. Wright Football is introducing their Grassroots Coaches Club to ensure that time and expertise can be channelled into these areas to help and encourage participation focussing on technical to skill through small-sided games.

Surely we should acknowledge the benefits, process and achievements gained through such activities and, through this, understand how young players learn. When players are motivated and enjoy practising, they will learn more, improve and become better equipped all round performers.

Then, and only then, when young players are ‘scouted’ for the clubs, they will have already gained the fundamentals and will be more technically adroit and therefore, with the help of the age appropriate qualified coaches at clubs, move onwards and hopefully upwards.

Wright Football, through the Grassroots Coaches Club, is committed to help and support all Members, at whatever level they are coaching at.

Peter Wright   UEFA ‘A’ Licensed Coach Educator                                      January 2013   

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