Roughly Speaking

Firstly, I’m really passionate about Youth football & youth sports. I 100% believe in the ability of Irish kids and kids in general. I’m a coach, a student of the game, a teacher, a parent and a blogger!

“don’t wait for the change, be the change.”

Secondly, you may have read some of my earlier posts which were written over the years and a lot has changed since back then. Including my some of my views, my values and my beliefs. Certainly the direction of this blog has evolved with time but the focus is still the same, to Improve Participation, Positive Learning and Development in youth sports. I’m in this for the kids that play sports for whatever reason.

I spent most of my childhood playing football on the beach and on the streets of Cascais(Portugal) also indoors playing Futsal. I played for Cascais, Estoril Praia Football Academy and trained (that’s all it was) at Sporting Club De Portugal Academy in Lisbon (only worth mentioning, as I have green blood in my veins). I played semi-pro in Australia for a year and In Ireland I played with various junior clubs and still love to play today.

I’m a qualified life Coach and also studying child psychology I’m coaching over 7 years now. I’ve attended many coaching clinics in Ireland and abroad and currently doing my UEFA B License with the FAI. I’ve completed and participated in many courses including the Coerver Diploma, FAI workshops, Ajax, child Welfare, sports psychology, Smartfootball Philosophy, child development, Athletic Development & back in 2011 I ran FCBarcelona coaching clinic. I’m currently doing a lot of research on the stages and rates of movement.

As a coach I will never stop learning and will continue to build on my coaching style, methods and philosophy. I say,”judge me on my teams actions, you are only as good as the team you coach”

Style & Methods

The Coach Diary was setup because I have always had a passion for football, learning and coaching. I also believe with the right pathway we can identify our own style of play, that can be created at grassroots and followed all the way through to the national team. However, the current system and mindset (or lack of) is failing our young footballers (and not just in soccer) and my focus it to try change that mentality by educating the doubters and some of the uneducated in this area of development. As a recreational football nation we are unique in that we have a professional national team but a amateur league (semi pro). So we need to find a healthy and creative balance that compliments both pathways.

I model my philosophy on the likes of Coach John Wooden, the great late Horst Wein methods, positive mindset & psychology and look abroad for new ways of doing things the right way. Sports psychology, positive mindset, movement fundamentals, and life lesson through sport are a major part of my coaching style, that will never stop evolving.

“Children should have a relationship with the ball at a very young age. Ball mastery and game intelligence should be the number 1 focus of every coach working with young kids. They can never get enough quality touches of the ball”

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I will never cease to learn. I have learnt that you can learn something from everyone and everyone has the ability to get better.

Let the kids own their Sport

The single most important thing to remember in kids sports is that the game belongs to them. As adults we need to let the kids take control of their game allow them discover it for themselves. A big part of this process is making mistakes. When adults control the child experiences, it prevents them from learning the game in natural manner. When children are given control over their sports they are more likely to enjoy the game and will actually stay playing for longer. As Horst Wein said, “Children must be able to master each step along the way to becoming a happy footballer. The Games should be natural and fit like their shoes but in many cases kids are playing with shoes that are far to big for them”

“Children are not mini-adults”.


To start, under age football (and sport) in Ireland (and now around the world) is far too competitive, we have competitive leagues right down to the youngest age groups, putting huge emphases on the idea that winning is everything. This leads to coaches picking the bigger, stronger players, at the expense of the smaller, sometime much more technical. When you have parents and coaches wanting to win more than the kids themselves therein lies the biggest problem. Again, we need to educate the adults and parents (who are also the coaches/teachers) and implement a better coaching philosophy/knowledge across the nation. We mustn’t force the process of learning.

Fundamental Movement Skills

For us as coaches of children in sport, it is important to appreciate that a wide range of activities is required to allow the child develop to their potential in all phases from Rudimentary through to Fundamental skills. By doing so, the child will benefit in a number of ways.

  1. He or she will enjoy the benefits associated with play as previously described.
  2. The child will have a broad range of movement from which specialised or sport specific skills can be developed.
  3. The child is likely to associate positive experiences with physical activity/sport and so this may assist in fostering a lifelong engagement in physical activity/sport.

To truly develop fundamental movement skills in our children we must provide opportunities for them and encourage them to be active on a regular basis. As coaches, parents, teachers and administrators (either in the community, in education or in sport) we all have a great responsibility in this area. It’s vital that before children enter into the game that they have mastered or been exposed to the lots of movement and movement skills this will hopefully lead into better sports skills.

The Coach

I want to hear from YOU and find out what you have to say about football in Ireland at under age level. The most important thing is that we are all working together with the right focus.

  • Is the game to competitive?
  • What changes can we make to improve particiaption?
  • Are the coaches pressurised to win games?
  • What changes have worked in other countries?
  • Are only Elite teams catered for?
  • Why are coaches more focused on Winning (mentality) over development?
  • Why aren’t we working on ball mastery and game intelligence (Fun, free-play) more and why is training so boring for so many? 
  • Why do you coach
  • What is liked to be coached by you? 
  • Do the players learn every-time you train? 
  • Are Parents becoming more of a problem?

The FAI are working on developing kids through emerging talent and breathing them for the future, the emerging talent programme seems to work for what it is, but the real problems lies down at grassroots. Our governing body should have control of the youth game but that as we know is been run by the disjointed SFAI, – who are basically a bunch of very old people that haven’t changed their views in over 40 years. Unlike our Children who have changed tenfold, as has the way we teach them. We need to adapt to how they learn, in a age specific and related environment. Unfortunately the SFAI have outdated opinions and very few forward and current thinking ideas.

Kids football (sport) is changing and it’s time we all made the change to impact the child. The focus should be child centred not adult or club centred.  I believe we as coaches can do so much more for the kids, however we need help and guidance from the governing bodies. I believe we can produce even more technically talented and happy footballers that will stay in sport for life. The leagues (SFAI) are failing our kids with their own agendas. The Number 1 focus of any organisation, should be to keep those kids in that sport, but we see far too many leave the game at a young age and never return again and that is very sad.

“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach”

Can we do more?

We have to do more… More focus on technical development, game intelligence on most importantly it should be FUN. With street soccer pretty much a thing of the past, we no longer see kids with natural skill or street soccer skill as you might call it. The street game also allowed children to be in control and didn’t come with the adult input that we now get on the sidelines of kids sports.

“The golden age is between 7 and 12 years but when you focus on winning at all costs you don’t see the golden generations, you see the lost generation”.


We also need to look at the u8s & u9s travelling long distances to play 30 minutes of sport. These kids would be better off staying at their clubs playing blitzes for 2 hours and touching the ball hundreds of times versus 4-5 hour round trips and touching the ball 20 times in an overly competitive environment.

Sideline Mentoring

quoteThe small sided game has become so competitive that as coaches we are forgetting why we signed up for this in the first place.. You only have to watch how coaches and parents are prowling the sidelines, almost like generals barking orders, kicking every ball and demanding that their child excels & listens to what they are shouting. This causes the child to freeze and under perform and eventually (when they can deicide for themselves) leave the game for good. I rarely see a kid playing football with a smile on his face these days. Playing sport is being turned into work for kids.

What is the thing kids fear the most?

Mistakes, kids fear making mistakes.

A winning culture doesn’t allow for mistakes. We all see lots of kids afraid to take risks and try tricks, some even crying with the pressure to win. The league system in this country is making it very hard for coaches not to be competitive and parents/coaches are losing their cool week in week out.

It’s time we changed this culture.

Also moving kids along to quickly and into adults football is a big concern and prevents kids getting more touches. There needs to be better league structures and a proper path ways across Ireland with the aim of keeping the small sided game for longer and moving into the adults game at the appropriate age i.e 13s and 14s.

 “Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time.”

Player Pathway 

The FAI player pathway training to win is at age 18 so why are we doing it at age 7. Another problem is that of the 32 leagues in Ireland all of them are doing different things, some play 7v7 to 10s, some are starting 11v11 at 10s. We need to be doing the exact same thing, working together on one single philosophy. All the leagues in Ireland should have the same structures moving kids to the adult 11v11 at u13s or u14s the earliest. 

What do I think we should do?

Firstly we need to change so much about structure of the game, including:

  • Getting away from the mentality the winning is everything.
  • Much more focus on the fundamentals of movements, teaching kids to move before they can play (Fundamentals of Movement/skills and sports skills).
  • U8s & u9s should be playing within or close to their post codes.
  • 3 retreat lines for SSG.
  • We need to introduce non competition leagues at the youngest ages up to age u13s, where possible.
  • No National cup football until age 14. (Introduce weekend long tournaments; more games, more fun)
  • Not playing on full size adult pitches until u14s.
  • Emphasis on teaching the correct techniques, playing out from the back at all times and reducing the player numbers and size of the pitches.
  • The game needs to be age specific and FUN.
  • Two ideas are first pass is free (out from the back) and no throw ins until u11s (play starts from a pass or like in field hockey they can start play by simply dribbling the ball)
  • Playing small sided games for longer will help develop kids technically, kids should be allowed to experiment different positions, encouraged to use both feet. The small sided game helps kids develop into far better players, it also get them more touches of the ball, as much as 75% more then 11v11s. Its proven throughout Europe.
  • In order for this to happen every single school boy league in Ireland needs to be doing the exact same thing. Some counties and towns may not have the numbers so common sense, where smaller teams might be more appropriate.
  • Football should be a progression and age specific. Smaller numbers on smaller pitches. 3v3s, 5v5 in academies and 7v7, 9v9s or 8v8s whilst moving to adult game 11v11s and on full size pitches at u14s ONLY.
  • 5v5 to u9s (Size 3 light football)
  • 7v7 to u11s (Size 4 light football 250gram, with an option to continue 7v7 to u12s in parts of the country that don’t have the same level of participation)
  • 8v8 or 9v9 to u13s (size5 light 350gram balls)
  • 11v11 at u14s (with the option to play 9v9 for lower level teams) (Size 5 410gram footballs)
  • December to March should be Futsal for everyone.
  • League to start Futsal sections even in the winter.
  • Roll out Futsal in Schools across Ireland.
  • Coaches should be qualified, Garda vetted and trained in Child welfare before they are allowed get involved with a team. 
  • Not all people who start out working with a team want to pursue a pathway in coaching. However that should not stop them from learning how to coach the child.
  • No need for qualified coaches as much as the need for people who understand how kids learn.
  • Establish Two pathways: The community coach and one for the high performance coach.
  • Grading system for clubs and facilities, bring in a national license.
  • Sport should be fun and the focus should be participation, personal development and longevity in sport (SPORT FOR LIFE).
  • Better Coaches, Better Athletes, Better People.

“The sports pitch can in some case be the only place a child has the opportunity to experience freedom, make mistakes but even that is taken away by the consistent actions and demands by adults from the sidelines. Now gaming replaces this freedom”.

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What are the benefits of SSG’s & non competition football?

  • They become more confident on the ball.
  • They become able to play in a pressurised game.
  • Playing in various positions helps them understand the game better
  • Develops left & right foot.
  • Get kids playing out from the back.
  • More goals – more touches – more fun.
  • Keepers touches the ball more and become much more involved in the game.
  • As much as 75% more touches of the ball when playing with smaller numbers.
  • Every kids plays.
  • Less parent/coach involvement on match day.
  • Ten times more 1v1s
  • The game is FUN and fast.
  • The game is age specific.
  • Everyone plays.

We need to come in line with the rest of the world, we can look at our neighbours in Britain and even New Zealand to learn from what they are doing  and use it in our system but we must develop a pathway that is suited to our Coaches, our volunteers, our culture, our climate and our facilities. We can’t copy what others are doing but we can take some of their methods and develop our own. We can never change our DNA.

‘Kids are competitive enough they don’t need parents and coaches being too’

I would love to hear from you so please get in touch. Even if you are involved with other codes. The Coach Diary relates to all youth sports, I just happen to have a passion for football. 

October 2010

Thanks for visiting,


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

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