Irish Grassroots Football

11v11 = 22 – ‘That’s 22 kids getting very few touches of the ball’

So far this year I have had the pleasure to be involved with a u12s and now an u11s team. One thing is clearly wrong, the kids should not be playing 11v11 at u12s, that’s 22 kids getting very few touches of the ball.

At U12s the majority of goalkeepers can barely kick outside the box and most don’t even take goal kicks due to this and the competitiveness of some of the leagues. For me one of the most important players is the keeper and I will always encourage the keeper to be the one to start play. We know that most keepers now act as sweepers and recent studies showed that a keeper touches the ball on average 3 times with his feet for every time he uses the ball with his hands.

We want more touches….

Our big pitches and 11v11 game is preventing players getting more touches of the ball and in particular the keepers. On average a u12s player touches the ball 13 times per game and this is nowhere near enough for any player to develop his technical skills or game intelligence. The touches increase slightly in the 9v9 and so on, down to 3v3 where a player could get as many as 100 touches of a ball. 

“recently against Racing Messi got best 93 touches the ball, 2 goals and 4 successful dribbles”

Very few kids can switch a ball across the field due to the enormous size of the adult pitches these kids are having to play on. Another issue is the keepers move from the SSG goal to full size adult goals, which as we know are the same goals adults need ladders to put up the nets on. (see featured image)


A major distraction are the cups competition, they are of no benefit to kids at these age groups and all they do is feed into the egos of some coaches. I have witnessed first hand coaches going to look at the opposition, viewing the facilities and requesting that the entire club come down to support the team (which is fine if its to cheer the team on and nothing more, but we all know that large crowds prowling the line leads to aggression and tension on the pitch and this only puts more pressure on the kids to perform).  In an ideal world no parents or at least no screaming parents just spectators would be beneficial to all. One of the many issues with the game in this country and cup football at the younger ages, it the pressure on the kids to WIN! That pressure can sometimes be what drives a child away from the sport for good.

My Campaign

I recently sent an email to O Creevey SSG administrator of the  DDSL asking for her opinion on this matter, I have yet to receive a reply. We have 3 leagues in Dublin all doing different things, why can’t they all be doing the same thing?

I strongly believe that we need further changes and the kids who enjoy football every weekend in this country should be given just that. The first things that should happen is to extend the 9v9 game to u12s, remember the only thing that changed from last season was that the kids jumped up a year. The age changes happened without even considering the numbers of players on the pitch.   The administrators of the leagues in Ireland do a great job administrating but they know nothing about coaching and clearly know nothing about what is best for the kids.  Do they even look into the vast amount of studies carried out about kids sports and football?

Many coaches in Ireland are now starting to realise that alot of what we have been doing is incorrect and we need change. Alot of this change depends on the leagues adapting to what is needed for both the kids and coaches; I and many other coaches around Ireland and in other parts of the world have realised for a long time that competitive leagues (at certain ages), coaches, parents and managers etc are having little benefit to the development of children in football and/or sport. Football has changed alot since we played but many are still stuck in the past.

Be the voice – make the change!

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