Irish Grassroots Football

When does sport stop being about activity and just about competition? – Dr Colman Noctor

Is Sport about activity or competition?

I am a child psychotherapist and I must admit I have an ambivilant relationship with children’s sport. The reason for this is that I have borne witness to stories where sport was a life saver for some children. The structure, the camaraderie and the sense of belonging was achieved through sport when it was lacking in school or at home. However I have also heard stories where children’s self- esteem and self worth were decimated by a sporting experience that involved exclusion, a life time on the subs bench or being told at a young age they are not good enough.

“In my experience as soon as a child masters the basic tasks of a sport, the grading and weeding process comes in”


It has gotten me thinking that there are 2 types of approaches to sport. Those who are ego driven and those who are task driven. Those who are ego driven are keen for competition, they want to win medals, being the best is important to them and they have a natural competitive instinct. On the other hand those who are task driven want to play for enjoyment, to learn new skills and to engage in an activity that is social, keeps them relatively fit and is enjoyable.

The system of children’s sport is notionally set up to accommodate both, but in my experience as soon as a child masters the basic tasks of a sport, the grading and weeding process comes in. Often this system strongly favours the ego driven children and very soon there is an expectation that children will commit to twice a week training and a match at the weekends. This is a big commitment of time and effort, but the possibility of league medals, championships and winning becomes the motivation for attending. Often this culture is created by the coaches who set the tone of the sport and the team and soon the task driven children are often driven out.

Just because they do not believe that winning is everything, or just because they don’t want to commit to three intense scheduled sporting commitments per week, or just because they don’t go to play sport to be roared at when they make a mistake means that they either get side-lined or leave of their own accord. The system of children’s sport is designed to support the elite athlete and not the task driven casual sports person. There is no room for that lack of commitment.

The reality is that of the 100% of club players, 1% will make the elite level in most sports. The other 99% will be made up of varying degree of casual sports people. However the system is focused on that 1% often at the cost of the 99%. Another interesting statistic is that despite only 1% of club players making it to the elite level, 26% of parents believe their child is capable of making the elite level, which if you do the maths looks like a lot of disappointed parents.

Even the concept of Junior C football is changing. Traditionally this grade was made up of a few casual aging gentlemen who went out for a match, without a matching set of shorts and socks between them, perhaps stopping to have a cigarette at half-time. This grade is gone. Junior C GAA is made up of fit young lads, on diet plans with strength and conditioning coaching sessions as part of the schedule.

So why is it so? In adult sport there is the capacity to engage with sport socially. I play 5 a side soccer most weeks and Tag Rugby too. The text goes around to see whos available and wants to play and you can say yes or no, there is no issue. Why is there nothing similar for young people. If playing soccer or tag rugby required me to be there twice a week and a match at the weekends, I would not be playing. This does not mean that I am not competitive, I am. I give it 100% effort for the hour that I am playing, but when there is no leagues or medals at stake, the losses don’t sting as badly and don’t last passed 30 seconds of the final whistle. We return the bibs to be washed for the following week, pay our €5 to the kitty person, and we head off to repeat the same next week.

Why can we not have something similar for young people. It is my view that this type of a model would be very popular for young people and it would mean that their participation levels remain for longer and they continue to play well into adulthood.

We need to think about the structures of children’s sport. Most give up because it is too serious, they are told they are not good enough or because the time commitment is too much. The ‘all or nothing’ approach is failing our children. In a world that is ‘On Demand’ and we can tailor most things to our personal needs, children’s sport is not moving with the times. The archaic expectations of needing to give all for the club or county and sacrifice all else for your sport will not suit most and therefore participation will dwindle, only to maybe take up sport again in their 30s or 40s.

Follow Dr Colman Noctor on twitter @colnoc77


We always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say or content to share, please comment below or email me 

Irish Grassroots Football The Coach Diary

Kids just want to have FUN…

Kids just want to have fun and if they’re not having fun, they may not come back. At the end of the day it’s just a game…a kids game and in years to come when you look back at the results they will mean nothing…..

Someone asked me the other day what would I say to a coach starting out? I remember reading something in an article about that very question and it went something like this,  “If this is your 1st game to coach or your 1000th, take an occasional peek toward the end. Winning is a by-product of doing all things the correct way. What matters the most is the effort you made to make a difference in those kids lifes.”

How many sport organisations ask the kids what they want from sport. How many take a child centre approach to coaching the game. Children have a very different view about their game to what the adults actually think they do.

With regard to soccer even during the early teenage years, we cannot predict who is going to be the best. Many things start to happen and it is not until after 20 years of age do we find out who has survived the journey to elite level. That is ten years, plus the glorious years of child football! – Johan Fallby Sport Psychologist at premier Danish soccer club F.C. Copenhagen

What are the kids after?

Why do they get into the game? Well, they get into because their introduction to any sport was generally through play and play to children = FUN.

You will have more successful athletes if you coach the process, effort, and the pursuit of excellence and then the outcome happens by itself.

Believe it or not children don’t actually think they are going to be professional sports players. It’s only a very small percentage that actually believe this. For most the kids the idea of imitating one of their idols is good enough. That is play. It’s adult that actually dream more about their kids becoming a professional player.

Kids play sport because its fun. They get a chance to hang out with their mats and play outside. They get a chance to put on the club colours at the weekend. They get a chance to play their game for real and all because it’s FUN!

….and what makes it FUN? Organised training sessions where they get a chance to improve their ability, skills and game intelligence in a child centre environment. When the game is fun then the kids will keep coming back.

Kids don’t value winning as much as adults do. They love to win but they prefer to play. So even if the team is winning every week, the kids who don’t play don’t feel part of the success. Kids would rather lose and play than win and not play.

They do not play to win. They like to win, they enjoy competing, but they do not play to win. They play to have fun, to be with their friends, to feel good about themselves, and because it is exciting.

“Be strong and work to eliminate this culture and ignorance from your club. Be curious and find out more about how a sports environment should look like for your child” – Johan Fallby

No kid wants to train two or three times a week to only get 5 or 10 minutes of a game at the weekend. When kids sign up to play a sport or when their parents sign them up, the kids go into this process with their eye on playing the game at the weekend. Training is not the fun part of the week, the game is.


  • Is to make sure the kids are having fun and learning in an age specific environment.
  • We have a culture that’s has come from pro sports where people pay to get entertained “Entertainment Zone” this feeds the win at all costs mentality on kids sport. Grassroots is not that, grassroots is the “development zone”
  • Research has shown that when you focus on development of the game, creating a mastery culture rather than the winning one, everything being equal, you do better in the long run and you end up winning anyway.

Social Neuroscience, of undergrads at Case Western Reserve University : “The No. 1 change any coach can make, on any level, is to focus more on the positive. A recent study, published in Social Neuroscience, of undergrads at Case Western Reserve University, found that young people who are coached using a positive approach — envisioning future success, in particular — were more likely to be compassionate and open to ideas for improvement. They were also more likely to make lasting behavioural changes than those coached by people who focused on their weaknesses”.

In the end of the day the kids that stay in sport for longer are the ones who really benefit. If you see sports as being fun the chances are so will the kids you coach.

Give kids quality coaching in a fun environment with meaningful competition and they will keep coming back for…. So yes, occasionally take a peek into the future, even just a year later and see how many of the kids you coach keep coming back. How many of them have you retained and improved from last year? Your job is to continue to provide an environment that allows them to get better and keep coming back for more.


I have taken lost of references from this interview and If you care about youth sport then I highly recommend you read: Johan Fallby talks to footblogball

Also read Per Göran Fahlström also on footblogball

Changing The Game Project


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary and @LetTheKidPlay

Irish Grassroots Football

What is PLAY?

One thing I’ve learnt over the last number of years is that all children learn at different stages. Some children are ready for school and other are not. Some are ready to play in an organised coaching structure and others are not. One thing will never change, – all children develop at different stages and we must not force that process.

What does Play mean to children? 

Ideally kids should play every day, often without supervision. Just like in times gone by, street football, or games that happen naturally are a great environment for kids to develop on their own without being over-coached by adults.

Play is recognised as a basic human right for all children. The importance of play has been reaffirmed by the UN’s convention on the Rights of the child, which Ireland ratified in 1992. Article 31, set out the child’s right to play:

“Parties recognise the rights of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and participate freely in cultural life and the arts: parties shall respect and promote the rights of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity”

Article 7 of the same convention states,

“The child shall have full opportunity to play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purpose os education; society and public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.”

What is Play? 

Play is an essential part of a child’s life and vital to their development. It is central to all aspects of young children’s development and learning. It is the way children explore the world around them and develop and practice skills. Play is essential for physical, emotional, and spiritual growth, for intellectual and educational development, and for acquiring social and behavioural skills.

Play does not always involve equipment or have an end product. Kids can play on their own and with others. Play can also be boisterous and energetic or quiet and contemplative, light-hearted or very serious.

When kids play they learn about themselves, others, their environment and the whats around them. Play enables them to explore and practice the roles and experiences that they will meet and fulfil in later life.

“It is through play that children develop their imagination and creativity”.

Types of Play: 

  • Structured play is play that has been pre-arranged.
  • Free play is play that is spontaneous, this happens when children choose and use materials and resources in their own way.

Given today’s changing lifestyles, children have fewer opportunities to play freely with other children in their locality and on the streets than did children in the past. Parked cars has been a major factor for children not playing on the streets. This in no way takes from the range of opportunities which still present themselves for children in the 21st century and a well planned active school & after school curriculum will ensure that these opportunities for play can still happen.

Many studies have looked at the importance and role of play, the following are a few of the common themes.

The Role of Play: 

  • Play promotes children’s development, learning, creativity, independence, confidence and well being.
  • Play keeps them active and healthy and this carries into adulthood;
  • Play develops social inclusion. Helps them understand people and places in their lives, learn about their environment and develop their sense of community;
  • Play helps them learn about themselves, their abilities and interests;
  • Play is good for the mind It helps children deal with difficult or painful circumstances, such as emotional stress or medical treatment;
  • Play allows children to let off steam, de-stress and have fun.
  • Play and Fun are the same to children.

In any organisation working with children there should always be an element of spontaneous play. This opportunity provide for exploration, experimentation and manipulation, all of which are essential for the construction of knowledge.During play a child learns to deal with feelings, to interact with others, to resolve conflicts and gain a sense of competence. It is through play that children develop their imagination and creativity.

“Physical exercise turns our brain on, so get out and get moving or you will turn your brain off” tcd

The role of Risk in Play: 

Children by their nature will always seek out opportunities for risk taking while at play. Therefore it is seen as an essential method of teaching a child how to assess and take calculated risks. Risk taking can be essential to the development of a child’s confidence and abilities both in childhood and later in life.

The quality of any programme should therefore respond by creating an exciting and stimulating environment that balances risks in an appropriate manner. However of course we must understand the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable risks and must ensure that the children are not exposed to unacceptable risk. Learning new skills involves an element of risk and  coaches must be capable of exercising their judgement about the level of risk that is acceptable and appropriate and also to exercise their judgement as to when it is necessary to intervene to prevent potentially harmful situations happening.

Risk helps them to understand that things don’t always work our right –  sometimes things can go wrong but the right coaching, they can put it right again or at least learn to live with mistakes.

In a recent study, Children were asked ‘How does playing make you feel?” – 8 out of 10 children said, it makes them ‘Happy’.

All of the above underlines the importance of play, and its influence on the well being and development of children today, and for the future of its communities.

Research: National Children’s Office Strategy, Playwork Scrutiny Group, Cardiff 2005.

Worth a read: Wise Words with Dr. R Bailey


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Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football Soccer Parents

20 ways parents can help their children have a better sports experience

As the seasons go by more and more parents are attending their child sports. Whether it be organised football or sports day in school, you can be sure parents will be there. Parents have a right to watch their children but they should also respect the fact that many people give up their spare time to help children succeed and stay in sport.

In the past, a lot of coaches were teachers so they had a degree and a background in childhood development. Now, coaches are mostly parents and/or committed adults and they may know a lot about the game but in many situations very little about how children learn. Kids sports has changed drastically since we were kids and learning the game is one of the biggest changes of all.

Sport itself requires teamwork, fair play, respect and problem-solving skills that transfer into life skills. In some cases, therefore, sport is a preparation for life.

Here are 20 things that will help you and your child have a great sports experience:

  1. Don’t push them into anything, ask them and if they say ‘yes’, go for it.
  2. Do not focus on winning. Teach your child the emphasis of participating is giving their best effort, having fun & learning. If we focus on those areas we will not strain our relationship with our children.
  3. Support them irrespective of their success and failure.
  4. Don’t pressure your child with adult values and ideas. Children play sport for different reasons.
  5. Let the game belong to them, because it doesn’t belong to you.
  6. By allowing them to take control of their game will keep them committed for longer.
  7. Never show your disgust for their performance by criticising them and don’t go through the game on the way home in the car. Win or lose the game is over to them and they aren’t thinking about it anymore. “There could not be a less teachable moment in your child’s sporting life then the ride home, yet it is often the moment that well intentioned parents decide to do all of their teaching” – John O’Sullivan See ‘The Ride Home’
  8. If they enjoy the game. Try and get them to develop an interest outside of organised training. This way they will take it upon themselves to work hard and get better (More success) and value the game more.
  9. If you control everything your child does they will never take responsibility.
  10. Model good behaviour on the sideline, be a good role model for your child.
  11. Don’t distract your child by continually shouting their name. Be enthusiastic, but don’t yell instruction and don’t get emotionally involved with the game. Sometimes silence is the best praise of all.
  12. What children see on a sports pitch and what adults see, is a completely different picture.
  13. Help children understand the importance and benefits of a good education in addition to developing their sporting interests. Coach Wooden said, Education comes ahead of sport and sport comes ahead of your social life. In any other order you won’t have very much.
  14. Provide them proper equipment and clothing to play.
  15. Stay interested in what they are doing.
  16. Allow them to set their own goals.
  17. Respect the coach. He or she might not always get it right but every decision is another opportunity for you child to learn something.
  18. If your child makes a mistake in the game, the first thing they will do is look to the line for your support. Don’t show your disgust, always be supportive. Develop a mistake ritual with your child so that they can move away from the mistake and focus on the next play.
  19. Children play sport because it’s fun. Play and fun mean the same thing to children.
  20. Sometimes “I love watching you play”, is all you need to say.

Coaching and instructing from the sidelines will distract your child from the flow of the game, make him/her more nervous, kill his/her enjoyment and, as a consequence, insure that he will consistently play badly. Eventually they will leave the game and not return until adult hood.

“Children make two conscious decisions per second. Sideline information prevents children from making a quick decision or deciding on one”.

According to Dan Gould at the Michigan State University Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, kids want to have fun, to get better, and to be with their friends. They want parental support and encouragement.  They want you to watch them play and praise them for their effort.  They want you to be realistic about their ability and they want you to be present, and interested in what they are doing.  They do not want you to shout at them the coach and the officials.  They don’t want you to put too much pressure on them, or be overly critical.  They want the game to be theirs!

John  O’Sullivan from Changing The Game Project said recently at a workshop in Dublin,

“Parents need to look at what these coaches do, how much effort they put into helping other peoples children. Without them we would not have a game, so don’t be quick to judge them. As a parent, once you are confident that your child is in a safe learning environment, one of the most important things you can do as a parent of a young player is to let them go and let their sports experience belong to them”.

Finally, how a parent behaves before, during and after a game can cause great anxiety on the child and consequently affect performance, development and enjoyment. Many parents will need educating in modern approaches to coaching, and how children learn, which is essential if they are to constructively support their child’s development through sport.

As parents, be patient.

Not all kids progress at the same rate and learning any game takes more time than most people realise. Allow them to be children, enjoying all the FUN elements of the sport, so that they can mature into the adult game naturally, learning each step along the way. Sports benefits not only builds kids physically and mentally it also builds and bonds relationships.

Reference: Coach John Wooden, Changing the Game Project, Timson-Katchis 2007, Woodward 2012, Horst Wein.


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me and if you don’t have anything to add, please pass this on to a friend.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter  @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football

Touches and then, more quality touches!

If I want to be come a better writer I must read more books. If I want to be become a better footballer, I must get more touches of the ball. Well, that’s how it use to work.

For many years now we have been comparing every promising young footballer to the talents of Roy Keane but we need to go back as far as 1999 Ray Houghton and 1996 Ronnie Whelan to find Irish players with great talent (technical) that were able to compete at the highest level. Under the current climate, as we look to the future it is highly unlikely that we will ever see players of this calibre playing for Ireland again.

My view on last nights game (Ireland v Portugal 1-5)….

I think we did ok on occasions and tried to at least play from the back. Ireland had a weakened team but Portugal also have 4-5 starters on the bench. Portugal’s passing in tight passes compared to ours was exceptional and this is the part of the game that we are light years behind in. The biggest problem is education, it’s culture, it’s mentality but most of it’s how many people really and truly care.

Educating the parents (who are mostly the coaches) and the ‘coaches’ who do develop by doing their coaching badges. The current coaching pathway teaches you nothing about the athlete. They don’t focus on the player coach relationship, teaching the player to play over winning, which it the most important area for the young player. Most of the FAI tutors have been the same tutors for many years. The content of the course may have changed but the delivery is still very much the same. In Spain and Portugal the tutors are also working with the best Academies in that area. So, not only are they current they are working with various age groups within those professional academies. They understand the child and whats required at different age groups in a professional environment and the focus is on coaching the player to play. They also have a philosophy, which every coach buys into too. These same tutors are able to pass this information onto the rookie coach just starting out, which is hugely valuable to the grassroots coach and the game.

No point in comparing!

We aren’t and won’t ever get that level of tutoring (no disrespect to these tutors), so it’s up to each individual coach to find his own way after he completes a course and everyone is doing something completely different. Soccer in Ireland is a recreational sport so we will only ever get a recreational standard.  The question is,…. Are we expecting too much? The biggest concern is players aren’t touching the ball enough and when they do it’s organised coaching, so they consistently have adults telling them what to do and where to go. We teach them what we see but the player does not see what you see!!

988365_595997677104474_1080675562_nMajority of kids are getting on average 150 touches of a ball per week (if even), based on 2x1hr training session and 1 hour match. This is not enough to develop players like they can in Europe. How many times do we see kids playing football on their own, how many carry a ball with them at all times, how many small sided recreational football pitches do we have around Ireland for kids to just play on their own. If you throw a stone in some of these countries it will land on a football pitch. If we throw a stone in Ireland it lands on a green with a sign saying, “No football allowed”, we aren’t providing enough spaces for kids to play and maybe that’s why they don’t play.

“Another issue we face is coach burn out. The volunteer coach can only do so much. We can’t keep asking coaches to give up all their spare time and give nothing back in return. If we really want to challenge in the football world we need professional coaches. Unfortunately the game of football and the coach is not taken seriously enough in this country” – Me

Last weekend I spoke to two coaches from Sligo and Mayo who are also involved with ETP. They have kids who only play ten games a year and might go 2-3 months without a game. Most of these kids will end up leaving the game to GAA sports because they can provide a challenge every weekend and soccer can’t. Irish players are going backwards, they are far less intelligent on the pitch to how they were 15-20 years ago and why??? They don’t get enough touches of the ball and they are getting less and less as the years go back not to mention that they are being coached on positional sense and tactics instead of ball retention, control and delivery.

Play Like Spain

“Let’s play like Spain, two touch football” people forget that to play like Spain you have to be playing like that from at 7. If we only encourage our players at a young age to only take two touches then they will never be able to go 1v1 in a game. Iberian kids are encouraged to go 1v1 at a very young age, they are encouraged to dribble and take risks. There is a lot more to the way Spain and Portugal play and it starts at a very young age. They also play Futsal from age 6 to 12 and can continue all they way up to professional senior Futsal if they prefer. Futsal is the most technical game in the world (the closet thing to street football) and all the best players have started with this game. The Irish mentality of “get rid of it or pass, pass, pass” needs to change. Which won’t happen anytime soon but we won’t stop trying.

“We need to change the attitude of the people who think getting kids playing 11v11 as quick as possible makes sense. Most of these people are involved with the Grassroots governing body the SFAI, who’s combined age reaches tens of thousands. That’s how far removed they are from the needs and wants of a 9 year old kid” 

We have far too many parents coaching kids (and without them we wouldn’t a game) and not enough qualified coaches with the right philosophy. We need to decide what we want, do we want to be a footballing nation challenging at the biggest and best tournaments in the world or would we rather just make up the numbers??

Ultimately, the environment must be Safe, Fun and kids need to be challenged whilst learning something every-time they train. They must be getting better every week but how many really are? Can we change a society that loves to win at all cost to one that focuses on improving the athlete? With the focus on Playing over Winning. I know I’ve been here before because every-time we are on the end of a big defeat, everyone comes out ranting and raving on what needs to be done but nothing ever gets done. 14 years ago we were able to compete with the best European teams, now we are 14 years behind them and still waiting  for a plan. Let’s hope one comes soon!!!

A few ideas that could get kids on the ball more:

We know that smaller number, smaller pitches = to more touches, more goals and more fun.

  • National Plan where everyone is doing the same thing.
  • u8s to u12s should be playing Futsal or least weekend blitzes where they get at least 1.5 hours of football not 3 hours of travel time to play 30 minutes of football.
  • December to March should be Futsal for everyone.
  • League to start futsal sections.
  • Roll out Futsal in Schools across Ireland.
  • No league or cups until u13
  • No national cups until u14s
  • Tournaments and Blitzes for all ages up to u12s
  • 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)

Marketing the game: 

Just looking to how the GAA promote in schools could be a solution.

  • LOI players to visit local clubs.
  • Maybe even take a PE session.
  • Bring the trophies and prizes into schools.
  • Allocate local clubs certain schools to target, that way clubs aren’t fighting for the same schools.
  • For instance in D15 we have over 26 junior schools, all have been targeted by the GAA but many have never had an FAI personal enter the school. FAI headquarters are in D15.
  • When was the last time an Irish international player went to a local school to promote the game?
  • The only way to get kids interested is to get them interested at a young age.

At the end of the day, whether we like to believe it or not we are a recreational football nation with a professional international team. It’s what we do down at worms eye view that will ultimately be the basis of what we produce at the top.

Please share your views below.


Worth a read Pete McDonnell Blog and his views on last night’s game.

I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football Soccer Parents

Our Children Have NO Freedom

Our kids can no longer play with the freedom we played with. In fact, I believe our kids will never have the freedom we had as kids.

Milk Run

When I was 6/7, I use to help the milk man. I’d leave my house at 6.45am and head off with a man unknown to my parents, – well they knew him as the milk man, his first name and that was pretty much it. They didn’t have a mobile number for him, he wasn’t Garda vetted and they didn’t even know what time I’d be back. Like me, most of us went out in the morning and didn’t come back until dinner time.

“Children left to their own devices will gravitate towards the things they love, and they love being outdoors. For every really miserable wet week, there’s been some sort of amazing experience outdoors that we’ve had together,”

As a child I had so much freedom, I spent most of my boyhood life outdoors. From the greens to the beaches eventually back to the greens. I roamed within 2 square miles of my house. Most kids wander freely only as far as their garden gate and even playing out the back unattended can be unique experience for a lot of kids.

Let Kids Explore

Back then we explored our world, we got mucky, we ran after each other with worms, we climbed trees, walls, fences, we jumped far and leapt over hedges. We explored dangerous places and frolicked in austere ones such as cemeteries and building sites. We even had pocket knives, sling shots and sticks. I can say for sure that I didn’t feel like my bedroom defined me as a child. My outdoor space did. Our children will be much more defined in their psyches by their indoor space than my brothers and sisters or I were.

A mothers view,  “Peer pressure is very strong,” agrees Helen. “You think you can make the world afresh for your children, you think you can make your own rules for your children, but you can’t.”

“Society’s fears of the risks that lurk outside for children – from ponds to stranger danger – may be overwrought and irrational, but anxiety (the defining characteristic of British families, according to a Unicef report on child wellbeing) about traffic is more logical. The growth in road traffic is probably the decisive factor preventing children playing on the streets as they once did. The Bonds live on a quiet residential road, but the traffic is still relentless, says Bond. “Until they are a lot older, I don’t feel comfortable with them cycling or walking around on the roads outside.”

You see, we are all the same. Not only is it British parents who feel like this but, us Irish do also in fact the worlds parents do. The stats show that the world is no more dangerous then it was was the 50’s but yet we fear everything. Our kids don’t get enough time outdoors and when they do, it is controlled by adults. Adults control everything their children do, you go to any playground and most adults are shadowing their children, telling them what to do and were not to go. We take them home when we’ve had enough. Today’s child just don’t move enough and when they do we shadow and tell them to slow down. Then we wonder why they lack balance and coordination in sport.

Where Are All the Mucky Kids?

Isn’t it amazing, that we tell our kids not to pick up dirt, a slug, a snail. We tell them to ‘get up off the floor’, we stop them from exploring all the time.  From a very young age we teach to be scared of spiders, we pass on our fears to them. If we react to anything our kids will follow without allowing them to decide for themselves. The natural world is fun and we should be allowing our kids to explore it more, a lot more.

“You know it is summer when everyone starts worrying about children not playing outside unsupervised anymore. A report from the Future Foundation says that the average amount for eight- to 10-year-olds playing unsupervised in the summer holidays has fallen from 55 “occasions” in the 1950s and 1960s to 24 now. Cue parental nostalgia for their own unsupervised summer holidays.”

I’m sure these figures are wrong, who in their right mind is letting 8-10 years old out 24 times during the summer and when would it be convenient to send the social services around? 🙂

street footballParents Back off, give the kids time to explore and discover

What do children need, security, self-expression, discipline etc, yet there’s never mention of one of the most important – privacy. Basically, there’s too much parental ego flying around. Modern parents need to learn that it is not all about them, centre-stage, being great hands-on parents. Sometimes, it is really about parents staying away and allowing the kids some freedom.

Could you imagine a game at the weekend with no parents on either sidelines. I’m dreaming, so are the refs!!

“You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms in play.” – Peter Gray

Read a debate, I just had about this quote here DEBATE

Could you imagine if one of our parents showed up when we were playing- “This looks fun! Can I play too?” To reproduce anything close to the freedom, we as children used to enjoy, modern parents need to back off. What do kids love more now a days? ‘A play date’, and ‘a sleepover’, these are the things kids dream for and a successful one is when the kids are barely aware you’re there. It’s all about invisible supervision, the passive parental presence. Independent adventure was central to a child’s development when we grew up, now it’s parental/child adventure……which is great, but not every-time kids play.

Adrian Voce, director of the campaign group Play England, said:

“While some fears – such as ‘stranger danger’ – may not be based on strong evidence, there is no doubt that the public realm is now very unfriendly to children. “For all of human history the way children have learned about the world has been to explore it. If they get everything they know from television and classrooms, they are missing out on a fundamental part of the learning experience.”

Margaret Morrissey, from the ParentsOutloud support group, said:

“I feel terribly sorry for parents and children today as we have allowed a society to develop in which the freedom of childhood has been lost.”


This reflect how we react to kids on playing fields, we want them to do things we can do (and in most cases can’t do) without letting them discover it for themselves. We expect them to understand the game of football, before they can understand it for themselves. As we control so much of their lives, we think it’s ok to control their sport and how they learn and develop. We control their recreational time from start to finish, we bring them to it, we give our opinions during and after it and we don’t allow the kids freedom to think and explore for themselves.

What the children see on a sports pitch and what you see is completely different. Even the view you have of the game and the view they have, is different. 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.

In reference to school, we don’t expect kids to write sentences in junior infants, when they are still learning letters. Teachers allow the kids to develop over time in a structured way, it’s only kids sports were we seem to demand more sooner. We want them to play and think like adults but we forget they’re kids.

So, my point is to let the kids play with freedom, give them some space alone and allow them explore.

Psychologist Peter Gray writes, “playing is learning. At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons, the ones that cannot be taught in school. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults.”

He goes on to say “You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom. Little children, before they start school, are naturally creative. Our greatest innovators, the ones we call geniuses, are those who somehow retain that childhood capacity, and build on it, right through adulthood. Albert Einstein, who apparently hated school, referred to his achievements in theoretical physics and mathematics as ‘combinatorial play’.”

“A great deal of research has shown that people are most creative when infused by the spirit of play, when they see themselves as engaged in a task just for fun.”

“Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up.” – Peter Gray

 Read Peter Gray’s BLOG


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