Development Irish Grassroots Football

We need your IDEAS!

I’m planning to send out a survey on the ‘Future of Youth Football’ in Ireland and need your help. I want to know any ideas you have and based on these ideas, we will send out a questionnaire to see what people really want. This is what will happen:

  • If you had a blank canvas, what would you do?
  • Tell me about your vision and ideas?
  • We want to narrow down 4/5 ideas and then use these ideas in a questionnaire.
  • A questionnaire will be sent to everyone involved in Grassroots football.

Here are some I wrote in a previous post.

  1. Abolish the SFAI or at least reform and rename it. Select a committee that is not appointed by the FAI and SFAI or maybe voted in by the leagues. For instance if I wanted to put my name forward, I would be representing my local league.
  2. Create a new name for the organisation call it ‘Youth FAI’, branching from the FAI, under control of the FAI. Each League would have a presentative working with them make sure they are adopting all the proper development procedures. Those who do it well, will get extra financial funding.
  3. Implement a ten year NATIONAL plan, look at what Germany, Belgium and Spain have done.
  4. We need to value the SSG and make it much more flexible. More and better players through child-friendly football.
  5. Introduce non competition football from u9 to u12s. Start with 3v3 for u8s, 4v4 for u9s, 5v5 for u10s, 7v7 for u11 and u12s, 8v8 or 9v9 (transition stage to 11v11) for u13s and 11v11 at u14s. Leave an option open to continue with 8v8 or 9v9v in areas that may not have access to pitches and/or players. This is proven in many parts of Europe, = More TOUCHES of the Ball, More FUN, More Goals.
  6. National guidelines for competition structures for all age groups, making sure everyone is working from the same programme with the same goal. Player first mindset.
  7. Clubs must have academies, must have proper facilities and qualified coaches. Introduce a licensing and rewarding system. Some suggestions to start with leagues first and reward the League Academies if they meet the required standards.
  8. To coach a kids football team their must be at least one adult with the required qualifications specific to his/her age group.
  9. Introduce a club licence with minimum criteria needed to set-up for kids football, i.e Qualified coaches, Facilities, Equipment, Child Welfare officer, Mission statement, Vision, Goals. Again start with leagues first.
  10. Use the best volunteer coaches in ETC (not friends), reward them with free further education. Get RDO’s to work weekends, so they can monitor the game on the ground.
  11. Begin ETC at age 10-21 years. The leagues should start their academies early with the ETP starting after the Kennedy cup, so u14s. After this the league centre should be the regional centre keeping the national philosophy within the leagues. Introduce a progressive and phased player pathway.
  12. Begin a player retention programme and a programme for players returning from the abroad.
  13. Include girls soccer in this plan.
  14. Implement Futsal into all leagues. More teams entered into community games and extend the age range, bring back the coaching curriculum.
  15. Promotion of Futsal in schools programme, promoting the game nationally. How many people are aware of the Emerald League?
  16. Change the course content of the K1 and K2 making them more player focused, with emphasis on ball mastery and how to structure a session. Mindset to change from ‘Winning at all costs, to player centred coaching’. 
  17. Introduce a ‘intro to coaching’ specific course for anyone looking to get involved. Looking at what is expected of you and reasons for getting involved. This course would be the door to further education. Anyone doing their K1 or K2 should start coaching in their academies and if they are good enough only then should they be allowed to the Youth Cert. Everyone should pass the course but introduce a grading system,  grade, A= you are able to go on and do the UEFA B provided you are coaching with a team. B= You need more work, nearly there but you will need to be assessed if you want to do your UEFA B. C= Your will need to come back and do a final assessment in two months in order to receive your cert. Everyone wishing to do the UEFA B should be pre-assessed and again a pass grading system should be applied.
  18. Parent Behaviour course, mandatory for all clubs and all parents.
  19. More access to courses, make them more relevant to the needs of kids today. Look to other European nations and bring in parts of their course into ours. We can’t keep coaching the same content with the same style.
  20. Encourage coaches to develop, introduce incentives to obtain further qualifications. We will need more qualified coaches for a plan to work.
  21. Market the LOI better – More funding for LOI Academies. National broadcaster have a responsibility to promote the national league over the English league.
  22. Focus on keeping kids playing in their communities, no travelling until u13s. If they are good enough then the regional centres will be able to look after them. However we would need to be catering for more numbers then the standard. There is no point in the best regional players going to Dublin to sit on the bench. Year on year regional leagues lose tens of players to Dublin clubs, who go up and never kick a ball.
  23. The transfer window closes 15th October and some players will be in squads of over 18 players and rarely play. If you’re not playing you’re not learning. That is why we need a transfer window in December to January to help these players to play.
  24. Let’s share our ideas, we need to be open with each other.

I have listed a lot of ideas. I’m more interested in the ones we can control. We can’t really control the ET programme that’s up to the FAI to develop but we can give ideas.

If anyone has ideas from other country; maybe things that have worked well, please let us know.

We need your ideas, please share them! 


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

Irish Grassroots Football NDSL - Small sided Game

NDSL open to change

The NDSL want a Gathering was the message on the front of the Striker on Monday. Once again the NDSL highlight their desire for change and this time asking other leagues to get involved. A welcome gesture by Tony Gains Hon. Secretary/C.E.O of the North Dublin Schoolboys/Girls League.

I spoke with Tony the day after ‘The future of Youth development in Irish Football’ talk at Blanch IT and we spoke how the NDSL could really create the platform for change and it’s great to see Tony has taken the next time and welcoming other leagues to join in.

We all know the politics of Irish football, you only have to look at the divide between SFAI and FAI. it’s time to push this to the side and really start working towards change, with everyone progressing in the right direction.

NDSL ‘letter’ to all the Leagues in Ireland.


10 April 2013

Dear Secretary

This has been on my mind for a number of months – that I cannot remember the last time we as a league spoke to other leagues in relation to underage football.

I am sure that most leagues would have the same problem running leagues whether you are in Donegal or Dublin.

I believe there is an opportunity there at the present moment for the officers of each league to come together every two months to discuss football matters as to what is relative to each league and how we can improve underage football and how do we see underage football progressing in next 3 years.

I think it would be a worthwhile exercise for the officers of each league to discuss relevant topics or football matters i.e.

  • Funding /Grants
  • Competitions
  • Structures
  • E.T.P.
  • SFAI
  • Scouts
  • Summer Football
  • & any other relevant topics that leagues would like to air their views

The suggestion is that maybe the officers of each league should get together without the politics of football and genuinely discuss the future of schoolboy football in Ireland.

I hope there are like-minded leagues that have similar views to the NDSL and they would see the benefit in holding these meetings and as I have already stated keep the politics out.  Let’s have a discussion for the benefit of boys and girls who play football.

Since the suggestion has come from the NDSL, we would only be too happy to host the meeting and should you be interested, please contact me at

Yours in sport,

Tony Gains

Hon. Secretary/C.E.O.

North Dublin Schoolboys/Girls League

I really hope that other leagues will accept Tony’s offer and join this gathering for change, a change we so badly need.

PS. I’m not affiliated to any league.

The Coach Diary

Happy New Year Everyone

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

This last one has convinced me even more, that change is a good thing and that their is nothing wrong with it, once it’s in the right direction. To all the great people out there, educating kids and providing them with knowledge and inspiring them to be better players and better people, I salute you all! Most of us our volunteers, we do this for the love of the game and because we are good teachers and we enjoying seeing what we do on a training ground transferred to the pitch. Remember we teach more by what we are, then by what we say and sometimes questions are more important then answers.

“Don’t change because a New Year is coming up, but change for your own personal growth no matter what the resolution you make, they start with you.”

Some of my favourite quotes of the year: 

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.”

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

“Nothing is more annoying than a low man raised to a high position”.

“Change is inevitable in a progressive country, Change is constant.”

“If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.”

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

“It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change.”

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

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

“Instruction does not prevent waste of time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.”

“To teach is to learn twice.”

Happy New Year Everyone 

‘Let the kids Play’

Irish Grassroots Football

Younge People of Ireland

A complete review of the structures and organisations of youth soccer in this country should be conducted by the FAI ASAP.

It’s time for more Innovative, Younger, Experienced, Trained and Academic peoples to take over the running of our game. For too long we have sat back and listened to morons week after week in our Clubs, Leagues and certain members of SFAI tell us how the game should be run. This game belongs to the kids not the adults, you were asked to supervise and organise not RUN the kids game with adult ideas and notions.

You been at this for way to long..

The problem with these people is that they are so far removed from the game; do they know what an  7 or 8 years needs and wants. Do you think a child wants to travel half way across Dublin or other areas to play a game that he/she may only get 5 minutes of playing time, which consists of running after a ball whilst screaming coaches and parents call out various instructions, do you?

Have you even walked soccer parks on a Saturday or Sunday morning and if you have why aren’t you doing anything about it?  Are you aware of the level of abuse children are receiving on our soccer pitches every week, in training etc?

Why DO the same people control soccer in this country, why do the same people sit on committees for years and years with NO vision, NO goals, NO Mission, No Forward Thinking Ideas?

The problem with committees in Irish soccer is that they’re usually made up of MEN over the age of 60, who in my mind are mostly unfit and unwilling to make change!  It was 52 years ago when they were 8, how can they possibly understand…

Where are the reports?

What reports have been done for Irish Youth Soccer, when was the last report done about the state of our game and some of these people decisions on controlling how the kids game should be structured.

Continue with the leagues structures and the inappropriate age games i.e playing  11v11 before age 13, the winning at all cost attitude which start at the younger ages with the introduction of leagues by the administrators; keep going with your brainless ideas and attitude that “all coaches want leagues at the younger ages” its detrimental to our game and we will only produce a handful of talent, talent that was born to play not trained to play.

The success of youth coaches should not be judged on the numbers of victories but on the number of players they are able to develop each season to become members of their senior or representative squad. On a long term developing will always outplay winning.

“ When you do what you have done always, you will never reach any further” (Horst Wein)