I remember as a child ‘playing out’, going out unsupervised and playing football with the other kids on the street with no adults around and only coming in at night when it was so dark we couldn ‘t see the ball anymore. If someone had invented a glow in the dark ball we’d probably have stayed up all night.
I’m sure most men of a certain age had similar experiences but few children these days have. Firstly there’s hardly anywhere to play; most places I used to play on are now overgrown wastelands or Tescos, secondly parents don’t let their kids roam free in the way they used to. They’re too afraid there’s a paedophile around every corner and two behind every bush and yes there are real dangers out there but the recent allegations about historic abuses performed by coaches highlight the fact that in some cases, the very measures that were meant to ensure children’s safety led to them being at risk.
Do we need to protect our kids? Of course, but do we sometimes over protect them and exaggerate the danger? Even now, in the midst of the on going moral panic about child safety, I would say yes. Be aware of dangers of course, but don’t restrict our children’s freedom because of it. The best way kids learn football is by teaching themselves. All those Brazilian and Argentinian superstars we watch on television didn’t become great by being coached from an early age, they became great by playing with friends on the streets from an early age, without a coach present: by coming up against football problems and finding their own ways to overcome them. The best lessons are the ones we teach ourselves and the best footballers seem to be the ones who teach themselves. I taught myself and that’s why I play for England. Hang on, Fifa does count doesn’t it?
It might seem strange for a coach to say we over coach, and that’s not saying there’s no place for coaching but we have to ensure we’re not stamping out creativity and self reliance while we’re teaching technique and when it comes to tactics our solutions won’t always be the same as theirs and sometimes theirs will be better and if we always give them ours they’ll never be able to develop their own.
‘…the last thing you want in a sportsman is a reluctance to think independently. It is an unsettling fact (for administrators anyway) that a high percentage of the greatest sportsmen learnt to play in an unstructured environment. They weren’t over coached at a young age; they learnt intuitively and from experience…I’m not arguing we’d all be better left alone to sink or swim…but the best teachers lead rather than drag. Above all, the best teachers teach independent thinking.’ What sport tells us about life, Ed Smith
See? Sometimes I even do research. I don’t just read comics! And just to clarify, by men of a certain age, I mean men over thirty. I’m not ready to draw my pension just yet!