You might have read a couple of my posts that talk about the massive negative impact of our lack of soccer culture, concerns that we might be over-coaching and creating clones, and the importance of encouraging creativity and skills.
I came across the following interview with one of the top Scottish stars, Barry Ferguson, and quote key passages here:
“Thirty years ago I was seven. And every day was the same.
Run home from primary school, dump my bag, get my joggies and T-shirt on, grab my goalie gloves, boots and ball and straight back out.
An hour and a half later I’d hear my dad whistle and I knew it was time for dinner. Run back home, square sausage and chips. Bang.
Scran it down, run straight back out the door, start playing again, get a stitch, feel sick, lie on the grass for five minutes then get back on the park.
A couple of hours later I’d hear another whistle and knew it was bath time. That was it. That was my whole life. And I couldn’t have been happier.
These days I watch a lot of the Under-20 games and I’m not a fan. I can’t help but look at these kids and think they’ve been over-coached.
I’m not having a go at the coaches because they are trying their best. But the problem goes deeper. It’s more to do with modern life and the way our youngsters are growing up.
Now I look at these 10-11-12-year-olds who are already signed up with clubs playing pro youth football.
It’s like they’re living in a completely different world. They’ve got all the latest kit, washed and ironed for them, the new boots, the slicked-back hair and everything is laid on for them at the best facilities.
But when I look at their wee faces I don’t see the same enjoyment I felt at that age. Half of them look as if they are bored to death and going through the motions. As if they’d rather be at home playing FIFA 2016.
I can’t blame them either because I watch the way these training sessions are being put on and I shake my head in disbelief. When I was a boy I used to enjoy coaching sessions and I really loved the drills we got.
But they were much more simple back then. These days it’s as if the coach is trying to be the star, setting up drills that are so OTT and so complicated that half the time the kids don’t know what’s going on.
Somewhere along the line we have taken the fun out of football and if we can find a way to bring that back then we’ll be doing our entire game a massive favor.
Give these kids a ball. Give them simple instructions and let them play. Let them try to copy Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and don’t criticize them when they do a step-over or try an overhead kick.
Yes, from time to time you might tell them not to try these things inside their own penalty box – there’s a time and place – but the whole point is we need to let these kids express themselves and enjoy playing the game.
I’m sick of watching 10-year-olds playing in a rigid 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1, terrified to get caught out of position in case they are told off by the coach.
No wonder they get fed up with football. By the time they reach Under-20s they have been completely conditioned into playing the game a certain way. They are not individual football players, they are clones.“
Of course, not everything that was done ‘back then’ is necessary better than today. Soccer and coaching methods have evolved considerably over time and they will continue to evolve.
But I think it’s worth taking a moment to at least reflect on Barry’s observations.