Who’s game is it anyway….
I came across this very well written article and it kind of sums up the game through this country of ours. It actually sadden me when I read it but then I felt relieved that someone had actually wrote it. Its very long but definitely worth the read. Here it goes →
Is it yours? Is it your clubs? Is it your players? Is it your managers, coaches or parents? The leagues? The F.A.I.? Who?
Pic.1 year old signs soccer contract with dutch club VVV-Venlo
As far as I can see when I try to answer those questions I come up with the same answers every time, the answer is the big clubs and their never ending need to win, win, win and sell players to keep them in the style they are accustomed to.
I spoke to a man who’s been involved in football for most of his life, 35 years with one club; I asked him about his thoughts on his contribution to grassroots football in all that time. He told me “I think we provided a great service for the youth in our area”, I told him I thought that was a very noble thing to do, so I asked him had any of his players gone on to play representative level or professional football?
“Well we had resigned ourselves to being a community club and we did the best we could”.
I asked him when did his club apply for the position of community club? “We didn’t, that’s just the way it is”, so I asked him why? “I don’t know, it just is”, “we trained a lot of great players that went on to great things”, so I asked him, great things for whom? He told me “the club that they left us to join, we put a lot of effort into them and then they were poached”.
So there it is that’s the answer to the big question, the big clubs run the show and the rest of us try and try but ultimately fail to progress our own clubs because of how the game is controlled at the top by the chosen few. If you are reading this then I’m sure you know yourself who the chosen few are, and I think that you can assume I am not writing this on their behalf.
“if I had known I may have thought twice about getting involved in the first place”
I run a small kids section in a club, I got into football 10 years ago having never played or being associated with any club, so I had no pre-conception of how the game was structured, if I had known I may have thought twice about getting involved in the first place. My oldest son got to the magic age and wanted to do what all his friends were doing, play football. He was five at the time, I took him along to my local club for trials, wow, what a rush for the young lad, he made the team, only problem was, the team didn’t have a manager, so I put myself forward and took the job, after all how hard could it be?
So I starting getting my coaching badges, “small sided game workshops”, then the new era came in from the F.A.I., The FUNdamentals, “Kick Start 1”, “Kick Start 2” and then onto my latest badge the “Youth Cert”, and numerous books and seminars, all worth while and value for money. The message was simple, let the kids have fun and enjoy themselves, hopefully along the way I could help develop these kids into football players in a fun environment.
Kids must have FUN
So I started with this idea in mind that the kids must have fun and enjoy the game, I had the idea, every player that shows up gets at least half a game, good bad or indifferent, they all got to play. I was happy with the players I got at the start and I was happy I would commit to bringing the team to its natural conclusion finishing when they could no longer play kids football.
That didn’t last long, the more I got into the game, the more I saw how ridiculous the whole thing was. Within the first couple of years I became aware of the need to win and get promoted to the top division, so that you could keep the team together. I started not giving all the players the correct amount of playing time, I even got involved in the idea that I needed to get new players in to replace the weaker players in the team, but then I had the other problem that as the team became successful and started to push towards the top division, I then had to worry about players on the team being poached by the big clubs, so you get promoted and the players are taken, you get relegated and the players are taken, you stay were you are and the players get taken. The magic words whispered into the parents ears “How many players have that club got across the water?” “We can get you trials, we can sort it all out, we can make sure that he doesn’t miss the boat”.
“New Players every-time”
When I started with my older lad’s team, we played one of the big clubs at under 7, as far as I remember our boys beat them, but that was the last time, every time after that we lost by heavier and heavier margins every game. I have no problem with the losing, but the interesting thing is each time we played we had the same team as before, but not the big club, new players every time until they got such an unbalanced side in comparison to ours it was pointless playing them. Not because we kept losing, but because it unsettled the better players (and more importantly their parents) in our team who thought they would be left behind and not get a chance at whatever it was that all the kid’s chase.
It’s a strange thing how things go but because of the system in place, 8 of my current team are one time rejects of the big clubs, being told they are no longer good enough to make it!
Which is another point, how did I end up with so many new players (rejects from other clubs), because I had started to buy into signing new players to make the team better, instead of making the players I had better, by default making the team better, which would have been the correct way to do it.
How many get to play professional football? Not many is the answer.
I now run two teams, just finished Under 14 and Under 10, the under 14’s are about to fold because of the way the system works. I’m not sure about the Under 10’s, we just lost a couple of players to one on the big clubs that in itself I can live with, but the issue I have is the fallout because of the club hopping.
I’ll explain what I mean.
My under 10’s had eleven players, all there since 5 years old, loads of effort getting them trained to the level they are now at, 2 players leave us, that leaves us with 9 players, not enough to start 11 a side. 2 players rejected from the club that my players have joined, what next for the 2 rejects, “who cares, they are not good enough”. I then go to our second under 10 team and tell the manager that I need 4 of his players, now he doesn’t have enough players for 11 a side, the players that he has left are going to be the weakest players that we have, what happens to them, “who cares, they are not good enough”, gone, finished with football, washed up after 5 years of training and playing.
because the emphasis is not about development of players, it’s about winning, winning at all costs, doesn’t matter about the players that are rejected by the big club, doesn’t matter about the kids that we cannot make up a team for, only thing that matters is the unquenchable desire for the big clubs to win and sell and make money and by the constant struggle of the little clubs to hold onto their own players.
u7s losing games, how can this be?
I set up a nippers academy 2 years ago, it’s been a great success, a new team has come out of it each year, the kids are happy, parents are happy or at least I thought they were, until I went along to watch last years under 7’s play a match. A couple of the parents approached me with some concerns about a couple of games that we lost, and they were thinking of bringing their kids to a better club next season, they had already been contacted by a big club. Can’t be proved as poaching because the kids being courted won’t complain because they think that they are now on their way to Manchester United or wherever.
Success Vs Development = Bad Parents Vs proper Coaches
I was approached by two young coaches that wanted the chance to run a team, we decided to give the next batch of players graduating from our academy to them to coach. The new coaches are full of experience, full of knowledge about the game, full of enthusiasm, going to get more badges and can’t wait to get started, this all sounds great, but is there any point to it, can they have success? I don’t mean the success of winning, I mean the success of doing it right from the start, great coaching, great team spirit, positive attitude, but is that enough?
Whats the Point?
If they are lucky enough to unearth the next Messi, Beckham or even a Robbie Keane, what then? Do they live in fear that the child will be poached and then the team breaks up, what’s the point? Our coaches all have badges, they all try to help the kids develop and above all have fun as per the F.A.I. FUNdamentals of coaching (Stage 1). All this so that in a few years certain clubs come and cherry pick the best of the kids leaving us to pick up the pieces. Nine times out of ten the only result is the team that we have been building folds and we have to start again.
Better coaching will lead to a bigger pool of quality players
I am not looking to win, lose or draw, I don’t mind what kids show up to join one of our teams. If we have enough players and can get a suitable manager then we will have a team. If we start in the bottom division so what, no problem, keep trying, keep training, if we are lucky enough to have some talented players and we can make them better, great, we are still happy.
The point is it shouldn’t matter what the level of the player, if you are not obsessed with getting to the top at all costs. If your players are good enough then they will break through no matter what. Imagine if you had to keep what you started with, how would that be? No problem for me or my club. We would put effort into the coaching because that would be the difference, and better coaching across the board has to be a recipe for a greater number of well coached players. Generally every team has a good mix of players at most levels, some great, some average, some not so good.
It’s this that would make the players better because the level of coaching would have to improve. The F.A.I. has their emerging talent system in place that would ensure that the elite players would not get overlooked.
What lessons are kids learning? Certainly not loyalty, definitely not team work. It’s everyman for himself. Forget about your teammates so long as “I” make it.
I tried to speak about this at a recent league AGM and was hushed up and told there is no way to sort this system out, but they are wrong. The board spoke about freedom of movement. It seems to me if they were worried about freedom of movement then we would not have transfer deadlines, players should just be able to move whenever and wherever they wanted to with no regard to anyone but themselves.
The board talked about a proposed new rule that the Kildare league are trying to introduce stopping players travelling a certain amount from the school they attend. One of the big clubs was up in arms about this, suggesting that the league organise buses to ship managers from Dublin down to Sligo to the S.F.A.I. A.G.M. to block the Kildare League’s proposed rule change. Why are they trying to block this?
What we need is to abolish transfers altogether.
OK, there will always be some instance when a player has no option, and has to move. Simple, the secretary of the club the player is signed for issues a release form. Done!
There are loads of reasons for this not to work, mostly you will find the reasons will come from the clubs that cause this situation in the first place, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We will be left to run our “Mickey Mouse” clubs without interference. Who gives anyone the right to make our teams fold or make it so difficult that good or dare I say it great coaches pack it in because the rug keeps getting pulled from underneath them.
The current system only breeds a notion of win at all costs. If it is to be changed, we need to change it. If we don’t then we can no longer sit back and moan that “it’s all their fault, they made our team disband because of poaching”, it will be your own fault because you did nothing about it.
All of the people that I have spoken to so far are in favour of making a change. I have spoken to twenty clubs so far and two leagues, they too are in favour of finding a solution. This will not be an easy thing to change but I feel that it needs to be done and is worth the effort. I’m not interested in players that play for another team, I don’t care how good they are, I think that it’s ludicrous that some of the clubs within a stones throw of my own club resort to getting players from all over the country. I know of 7 and 9 a side player’s travelling from Waterford and Cavan to Dublin to play, and under 13’s from Kerry, Longford and Kildare playing for Dublin teams. What is the point, why is there such a need to win? There has to be a reason, the reason is money! Sell to England and reap the rewards. Why else? If you know of another reason then I would love to know.
Whose needs are they trying to meet? It’s not their own player’s, because as soon as a better player comes along the child will lose their place in the team; it’s not the country lads who have to get carted up and down. Again we come back to winning and selling.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, let’s say for arguments sake, I do find a future star and coach the child until they are 11 years old, child gets poached, and then at 13 or 14 the child is sold to an English club. The money made on the sale is only backdated for coaching from the child’s 12th birthday. So not only do we lose the child from our team after all those years of coaching, the big club makes all the money!
As long as we allow this situation to continue, and I say “we” because it is we that lets it continue.
I am currently putting together a proposal to submit for next years S.F.A.I. A.G.M. Although this will be a big, big change the basics of it will be:
The first club you sign for is your club, until your club Secretary signs a release form allowing you to become a free agent.
If you cannot get the required release form, you become a free agent if you do not participate in associated football for one full playing season.
That’s it, simple really!
If you are interested in trying to change the status quo then I would urge you to contact me and share your ideas, my contact details are below.
Yours in sport.
Mob: 086 3016292
The opinions expressed in this article are mine,
and do not represent Killester Sports and Social Club.
I thought it couldn’t get any worse but I was wrong.
I spoke earlier about our new underage team and the two young coaches that would run the team, too late; the team has folded before their first training session. I spoke to one of the coaches; he told me that he would not be joining us for next season! What? “I have decided that I would not be able to attract the calibre of player at your club that I need to progress”, “I only want to work with 1st rate players, I discussed this with ********* F.C. and they can provide the correct class of player so I will be joining them next season”.
I told him that I could provide him with a new €200,000 pitch, changing rooms. Great winter training facilities including astro and indoor hall, still not enough. Remember we are talking about 5 and 6 year olds!
Do you know any 2nd rate kids of that age? I rest my case, for the moment.
The Coach Diary – No point in me adding to this, just want to thank Derek for allowing me to post his message