The 8-year-old centre back
As a company that offers children’s football coaching in Leeds we are fortunate to speak to a variety of parents and grassroots football coaches on a regular basis, so we get a good feel for how things are progressing in the junior game.
One common thing we hear goes along the lines of, ‘my son/daughter is a central midfielder for their team’.
Said player is between the age of 6-11 and central midfield could be defender, striker etc etc. You get the idea.
We often bite our tongues and nod.
In reality we want to scream – WHO ON EARTH IS TELLING YOU THAT YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD IS A CENTRE BACK!!!
Look, we are in a unique position in that we coach junior footballers but don’t need to pick a team on a Sunday and handle all the issues/politics that go with that.
But we have spent years researching, learning and observing all things kids football coaching and one thing that is clear is that pigeon-holing a primary school footballer into a position at such a young age does more harm than good.
This was a topic of discussion at our coach education trip to Benfica Academy.
British footballers are finally starting to catch up from a technical point of view but we are light-years behind when it comes to ‘football intelligence’.
Many foreign players are ahead of British youngsters because they have had exposure to playing in different positions at a young age, so they understand the whole game far better than a player who has spent all their time playing in one role.
So, how do we solve this?
As a parent it comes down to whether you are happy for your child to join a team that focuses on development over winning.
Teams that have individual-focused coaches may not win every week but I would bet that, in the long-run, your player would develop more than those in teams that concentrate on winning at all costs.
You’ll have seen those teams before – set positions, ‘big, strong lads’ everywhere and coaches who mainly care about telling everyone at work on Monday that they are the next Guardiola.
The balance is a tough one for coaches when it comes to individual development and keeping everyone happy by way of winning football matches.
That is when you, as a parent, can help by supporting them and getting behind what they are trying to do. It is in the best interests of your child and that should be put first.