Irish Grassroots Football

He was hoping to put 17 goals (u11s) past the opposition!

Whilst tonight was absolutely fantastic for both the Republic and the North, our game at Grassroots level is still a long way away from being perfect. I received this email yesterday from a fellow coach.


I frequently go on your site to check out what is happening around the country regarding schoolboy soccer etc.

I saw something at the weekend and it’s made a big impression on me. Sadly, it’s all bad. And if things are like this in other parts of the country then football in this country is doomed. I don’t want to be too obvious and I don’t want to name the league so please bear with me.

To make a long story short a club coach rang me on a Friday afternoon asking if I could possibly referee an under 11 game on the next Saturday morning. I didn’t really want to do it but told him if he was really stuck that I would step in for him. The coach who rang me, I’d like to add is also an Inter League coach who I know quite well. I know he is “competitive” so in my conversation with him I asked him if both teams were of similar ability. He told me that they weren’t and that his team were much better and that he was hoping to put 17 goals past the opposition. With this I decided I wanted nothing to do with it as I think this sort of attitude from any coach and especially an underage coach is ridiculous.

I agreed to do the game only if there was absolutely no-one else available. I told the coach that if I had anything to do with the game his team were not going to absolutely murder the opposition. I tried my best to get my point across that a beating like this was of no value to either team (Please remember, this guy is an Inter-League coach responsible for developing our underage players).

Saturday Morning

So, 11 o’clock came on Saturday morning. Boots checked, shin guards checked, both Managers met and spoken to. The weaker team put up a valiant effort for the first 5-7 minutes and then the onslaught came. I, as Referee tried to help the weaker team as much as I could, rightly or wrongly. Not blatantly but in a quiet way. I probably could have given a few penalties to the stronger team but didn’t, could have given some free kicks for hand balls but didn’t, I also disallowed a goal for the strong team for a player who kicked the ball out of the GK’s hands but he actually didn’t. I quietly tried to advise the weaker team when the opposing team were doing short corners etc.

Second Half

In the second half of the game I asked the Manager of the stronger team when they were 9-0 up to sort it out. I asked the manager to come up with something, anything. Left leg only, count consecutive passes but no, he continued to drive on. (Not the kids fault I might add) I should have already mentioned that the strong team started what would be considered their very best 11 and only made changes in the last 15 mins. Should this not have been an occasion to start their weaker players and bring on the stronger guys if it was necessary? I really don’t need to answer that because I know the answer. What was even more frustrating was that I could sense that some parents were buying into this coach’s methods and ideas. With the score at 11-0 I blew the game up 5 mins early after the losing team’s manager asked me.

After the game I asked could I speak to both teams in the dressing rooms. To the losing team I mentioned that these things happen and not to be so down. I tried to explain that we’ve all been through it and they’ll laugh at it in 10 years time.  But the fact of the matter is that these little guys might not stick around that long. Would you if you were being beaten 11-0? And in the winning team’s dressing room I tried to explain to the 11 year olds why I was possibly helping the other team. I tried to explain that the game was a little easy for them and that I was trying to challenge them. This was as much for the coach’s ears as theirs. 11 year olds will be 11 year olds and they just want to score goals, I understand that totally.

I spoke with the coach after the game and tried to put my point across and I know it fell on deaf ears. As long as this continues in Irish football we are going nowhere. And we’re getting there fast. I think in the case above both teams just wasted 1 hour of their lives. It would have been very easy for this coach to challenge his players to make them better. You can’t shoot unless you get 10 consecutive passes or left leg shots only. Concentrate on playing out from the back, two touch passing etc. Would or could this challenge his players and prepare them for future better opponents? Yes it could.

I know it could be argued that both teams shouldn’t have been in the same league and this is another issue. I agree that they shouldn’t. But it could have been handled better. Coaches like this should not be anywhere near schoolboy/grassroots football. I’m 100% convinced that the players are not number 1 priority here. Who gives a shit who wins the under 11 orange League. In ten years time will anyone care? There is so much wrong in current grassroots football that it’s hard to know where to start. But I do think that the SFAI need to get their heads out of their backsides and sooner rather than later.

From an Unnamed coach.


It’s important we highlight the wrongs of this coach. He may mean well by his players. No one wins in these situations. Maybe the coach himself might be reading this and hopefully this can change he’s focus on what’s important in relation to developing players. Big numerical beatings certainly are not!

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