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Childrens Health Irish Grassroots Football

The Facts: Lay off the kids and let them enjoy the game

In an average year, 50 young Irish footballers are contracted to play with British clubs. But according to a recent study carried out by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), 85% subsequently fail to make the grade as professional footballers.

I don’t know about the rest of Ireland but it makes me laugh when I hear 11 years old being groomed for Clubs in the UK and told that they will be getting pro contracts when they turn 16…that 5 years away! Most player can change every 6 months not to mention that they still have to hit puberty. I wish some of these so called adults who are meant to be guiding this young and sometimes vulnerable kids would just back off and let the kids enjoy the game without the added pressure of trying to become a professional footballer. At the end of the day its all about money and the next best thing!

The facts don’t lie and some of the most promising young footballers never even get a change at league of Ireland never mind the UK. Players should be focusing on developing themselves, learning the game and not trying to compete against a other team members or player from another club. Every young sports kid should be trying to better themselves both in sport, education and life.

Expectations must be directly associated with the age and maturity of the child, to often we are asking our players to do things that fully grown men do and then we ridicule when they can’t perform they way the pros do. Unfair and difficult expectations bring possible negative results. ( failure). The child’s self esteem is built on his successes, not his or her failures.

Some interesting Facts

  • In 2009 their were around 390 young players contracted to UK clubs and beyond
  • The main issues facing young players are homesickness, Injury, Career Advice (Or Not) and Disciplinary Issues.
  • Most players released by clubs are left out in the cold and generally have to sort out his or her own future.
  • A percentage do not return home to Ireland because they feel they will be perceived as failures.
  • 85% of all young players who sign  pro contract at 16 will not be playing their trade at that club when the turn 19. Many are forced to play non-league or look for a career outside of football.
  • Most have neglected their education and have little or no skills.
  • Trials are permitted but they must fall between the 14-16 age bracket and during certain times of the year
  • In 2010 the FAI players Support Service and High performance Units jointly hosted 2 information seminars for parents and guardians of players likely to pursue a pro career abroad. The first one was attended by 36 parents of players and the second 21 . In total 57 players.

The facts don’t lie

and we as coaches must not be filling children and parents head with false expectations. Most kids who make the grade, were never talked about at a young age and went under the radar right up until they made their professional debuts.

Most of these players were late developers and had proper support and guidance by their parents, coaches and guardians at a very young age. They didn’t live with the pressures and expectations that some young talented kids have to live with.

They receive encouragement in a consistent manner and were thought values thus allowing to develop confidence in themselves and do better in life.

Research: UK Welfare Officer DFA Report

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