Friday, 11 November 2011
Non Competitive Games - Do they work?
I have spent the last 16 months coaching teams at the under 8 age group within the revised FA framework of no league tables. Whats your experience, does it work? Are coaches more aware of long term player development? Are adults changing their behaviour at youth football games?
If I had been asked this question towards the end of last season I probably would have said that the changes have had a positive effect. 10 weeks into this season and I'm not so sure. One thing has changed for me since then, this year we are playing against effectively 'A' teams, last season we where playing against 'B' teams and although there still aren't any points at stake, the adults (coaches and parents) involved with 'A' teams have a greater desire to win games.
Most weeks I see coaches rely on a single player to influence the game for them, to the extent that they take all the set pieces, including the goal kicks for the keeper. the corners from both sides, a free kick anywhere on the pitch becomes a shooting opportunity. I still see players not getting even half a game, I still see 7 and 8 year old players being chastised for making mistakes that the grown ups would never had made if they had been playing....yeah right!!
I started coaching 8 years ago and the same problems still exist now that existed then. Is it any wonder when, in my experience, there are still far more old level 1 courses available than the new FA youth modules for coaches taking their first steps. A new approach to coaching kids that is being promoted by the FA.
I was talking too a dad at my sons school the other day, his son plays for a team that are having a lot of success winning games, but at the expense of long term player development., he summed up youth coaching for me in the UK, when he said "His (the coach) heart is in the right place". There are coaches who are doing things with good intentions, but the reality is that he possibly doesn't understand how children learn or the physiological aspects of coaching children and the benefits that a focus on long term development can have on young players. They stopped learning when they finished there course.
So do Non-competitive games help? For me not much has changed, taking away league tables hasnt changed the behaviour of those that needed to change. Hardly surprising when the name alone doesn't work. There is no such thing as a non-competitive game for most kids, kids want to win, whether on the park or in the playground. The problem comes when adults feel the need to help them win. But for all the problems that exist I wouldn't want the tables brought back.
I wont pretend that it is easy for coaches to follow a path of long term player development, with parents moaning about why Johnny isn't playing striker and why Jimmy is getting to play the whole game despite being the best player, having to put up with fellow coaches boasting about their league position at club meetings.
But having had success, if you can call winning leagues with kids a success, by putting development before results at an early age in the years before playing 11 a side and then seeing the team win promotion 3 years running and with most of them playing at Alliance league level now I will continue down the not so trodden path of LTPD whilst playing competitive league organised games and hopefully look back in a few years and see I made the right decision again.