Jumpers for Goal Posts

All is not well in the local kids football team. I got our youngest up and out of bed at 7:45 this morning, giving us an hour before we needed to leave the house before a half hour walk to the football ground across town. We arrived ten minutes earlier than the requested time, and found only the coach and his son on the field. No other parents at all. I left our girl kicking the football around with them while I went back into town to get money.

Here’s the thing - there were perhaps 4 or 5 parents in attendance for our team. There are 9 kids on the team, plus 2 subs. Where were the other parents? Unfortunately I’ve learned this is fairly typical for children’s sports in the town I live. Parents drop their kids off at football or rugby, and then clear off to do whatever they do - sit in Costa Coffee I imagine. One coach turned up. A parent ended up having to referee. Doesn’t send a very good signal, does it?

I texted the score to my other half, who was a witness to the game last week. She nearly exploded as it edged towards 5-2 in the visiting team’s favour. There are rumblings about team selection after only a few fixtures. The town is running three children’s teams, and given the elitist goings on typical of this area, all the best players are in one team, and the rest are dispersed across the next two. While the “A” team destroy all in their path, the rest get hammered week-in, week-out. While this might be normal for “grown-up” teams, we are talking about 10 year olds. It’s not on.

I noticed a few things during the game. Our team forgot all about playing in any kind of formation, and reverted to infant school “swarm of ants” tactics. While amusing to watch, it also explained why we got beaten. Also, we had drafted in a first-team player, and the gulf in talent was massive. Late in the game he took the ball the length of the pitch - through most of their team - and scored single handed. Hardly useful when trying to teach a team to play as a team. He obviously didn’t trust anybody else with the ball, having watched everybody else lose it throughout the match. Finally, a few of the kids (on our team) seem to have been watching the TV too much - and have started cynically pulling shirts. It needs to be stamped on now by the coaches. We will only change the idiotic behaviour of the professional footballers if we model the way we would like to see the game played to the younger generations coming through. One particular lad thought it was tremendously funny that he almost pulled another kid’s shirt off… he should have been sent off for it.

It’s all a far cry from the way the local rugby team operates - employing a strict squad system, where each team is always a mixture of ability and experience - meaning the less talented kids will play out of their skin to match the more talented. It works - I’ve seen it happen. Of course rugby has an entirely different ethos - you never see complaints, or back-talk, or shirts being pulled.

If the football teams fold, it will be entirely the fault of the senior coaches for playing the glory game, rather than playing for fun. We get it - results matter - but when the result means half your squad loses interest then you lose everything - and so do the children.