The “Bad” Football Coach

First things first, I’m not really a bad football coach, actually at this point in time I’m not even a coach, but I’ll get to that soon. I’m actually a 32 year old guy, married with 3 kids, who, when younger, played football badly! I think the highlight of my football career was when our school form B team (I was the keeper) beat the form A time in the yearly school tournament. I was never good enough for the form group A team, never mind the 11-a-side year time! I can’t remember how far the B team progressed in said tournament, probably the 2nd round, but hey a win is a win right?!

Anyway, with that fascinating a-z of my footballing achievements done, I’ll explain further as to why I’m actually writing this drivel.

I have a son, Ethan, who I’m incredibly proud of. (Disclaimer – I’m also equally proud of Madison, 3, and Finley, 13 days!). Since starting primary school 2 years ago, Ethan’s interest in football has rocketed. He plays when ever he can, in teams, kick around at the park, and even to the annoyance of my wife, whacking the ball around the landing!

Now I’m not the biggest football fan, some years I struggle to keep up with Match of the Day! But I somehow find watching a bunch of 6 year olds, in the rain, freezing, quite enjoyable. And when I actually get chance to play with Ethan, I think it’s absolutely brilliant. I’d much rather be in the garden, kicking a ball around than watching some crappy Cbeebies show (anyone else want to throttle Bing?!).

So with Ethan’s growing interest in the beautiful game, and me no longer willing to withstand children’s TV any longer, we find ourselves more often doing something football related. Now as I’ve said, I’m not footballing genius at all, so we’ve been taking Ethan to various football coaching, team training and matches.

Ethan initially started out at a soccer skills weekly session, which was very well structured, brilliant coaches, and we could see him developing his skills. However a lot of the time the sessions were played indoors on a hard gym floor, and perhaps being slightly over protective, we felt playing outside on grass or astro turf would be safer. We also felt playing outdoors had other advantages too.

So we found a local club, and he played there for a year or so. The facilities were great, and the club seemed great and very well run. When he joined the under 6s, they had no permanent coach, but Ethan still really enjoyed the twice weekly sessions come rain, hail, and even the occasional sunshine! So long as they’re enjoying themselves then everyone’s happy right?

After a few months, about halfway through the season, the U6’s were appointed 2 new coaches. Brilliant, some structure to build upon the fun. As anyone with kids will know, controlling the little darlings can be interesting to say the least. I find problems start when young kids have little or no boundaries, and they are allowed to run free. This was a big mistake from the 2 new coaches, they wanted the children to “warm to them” (in my eyes run a mock) before putting in structure and discipline. OK, I thought, let’s take a step back and see how this goes. Weeks passed, discipline fell apart, and as such did the fun. Gradually over the next few months things got slightly better, some kids left, others calmed down, but I wouldn’t exactly call it great. Control just wasn’t there. Footballs would go flying in any direction, other than where the coaches wanted them to go. Kids would wander, mess around, uninterested and bored. Others would play tig, or swing from the goal posts.

My main concern though would be discipline during training matches. The kids would make some pretty bad challenges (99.9% no intention of hurting anyone, these things happen), but my patience was wearing down, and all I wanted was the coaches to stop the game, give a free kick, and at least make sure the kids understood what the did was wrong, how to behave, and how to avoid bad tackles on the future. The last thing anyone wants is for a child to be carted off to hospital, and I crossed my fingers than this would never happen. But unless the kids were told bad tackles aren’t OK, why would they stop doing them? Admittedly Ethan really wasn’t a great tackler in the U6s. He was often late into a tackle, and with him being taller and heavier than 90% of the other kids, I would often cringe, close my eyes, and pray when I saw him running full steam into a challenge! However I worked hard with him, explaining to him what wasn’t quite right, and how he could be better. The first stage was to make sure he stayed on his feet longer, rather than jumping in. He then learnt to watch the ball, and then time his tackles. At this age, the kids do develop very quickly, so it’s likely much of his improvement would be from himself, and perhaps he just needed a nudge and guidance in the right direction. Now he is one of the best tacklers, and very rarely mis-times a tackle. He also has the right attitude, so that if he commits a foul, he understands what he did, and the consequences for it. Other kids will shy away from tackling, and that’s fine, they will develop at their own pace. Ethan isn’t one for waiting for the ball to come to him, he will chase it, even if he accidentally tackles his own team!!

Tacking and discipline aside, I, and other parents, clashed with the coaches on various minor issues. Now please don’t get me wrong, I have huge admiration for people who give their time to do things like coaching.  Without them there wouldn’t be the clubs or events which we’re very fortunate to have. I’m simply giving a view into how I came to this point in time. I may look back tomorrow and realise what a twat I’ve been! I myself have limited experience in controlling a large group of kids, but that didn’t stop me from clashing with the coaches. I didn’t agree with some things the coaches were saying, they way they talked to the kids, and the techniques they were using. When a coach disciplines a child with exercise you really have to re-look at things! I’m a big believer in praising good behaviour, and trying, as is reasonably possible, to not give attention to bad behaviour.

So myself and my wife made the decision to take Ethan out of the club. It wasn’t an easy decision, Ethan was settled there, and Ethan looked forward to going (wow I sound like an awful dad), but we really did feel the environment wasn’t right, and we no longer wanted him there. I wasn’t the only one thinking this way too, many of the parents and kids left at the end of last season for other local clubs.  Others simply stopped playing.

So that takes us to now. Ethan is club-less, and for the short term he will be going back into the Tuesday evening indoor session for a few weeks, which he’s happy about. He’s attended the summer clubs which they run. He still knows the coaches there, and I’m sure he’ll do well, as he always does. On Saturdays he would normally train at the club, but I will be out in my shorts in the park with him instead. No doubt I’ll try some ambitious free kick and whack the kid right in the “peanuts”, resulting in bribery with an over priced magazine and sweets to stop crying and not to tell mum!

But what about the future? I want Ethan to be part of a club, play matches and tournaments, however the other local club is fully subscribed, with a waiting list of over a year! So what are my options? Luckily I have a friend, Dave, who is also in the same boat as me (his kid left the same club with similar concerns). Dave is wealth of knowledge when it comes to football. He’s been training teams of various age groups of years, and knows how to run sessions, and clubs with his eyes closed! His coaching badges and knowledge of the game are well beyond my occasional Match of the Day analysis TV viewing! I’ve also felt I should be doing more in our community. I have been invlived with the Scouts in the past, and really enjoyed my time here. I also learnt a lot about what makes kids tick. The kids at Scouts are 10-14 years old, so a bit older than Ethan, but even at this more mature age, they still enjoy silly games, having fun and learning through play.

So myself and Dave are going to put our heads together over a pint on Thursday, and see what we can come up with. Maybe a training session, maybe a team, or maybe we say “up yours football!” and we make our kids play squash instead!

I think it would be great to be more involved with Ethan and his football, and maybe this is an opportunity that I’ve really wanted. There’s so much I don’t know about football, coaching badges, or even hiring a pitch, but that’s half the reason why I thought I would do a little blogging. Even browsing the FA website is a daunting task. 40+ hours for a coaching badge, how am I going to fit that in when I don’t have time for sleep?!

I hope to update the site with progress, failures, and some insight into what we plan to do (if anything)! Perhaps if I, a not very sporting dad can get something up and running, then anyone can. Or maybe you’ll just avoid our mistakes!

Right, it’s well past my dad-of-3 bedtime, I’ll regret stopping up this late in the morning when Finley wakes at 5:30am so I’ll say bye for now!!




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