So this week Ethan went back to the indoor training sessions. We took him out of here around a year ago, in favour of playing outdoors for a club. Myself and Ethan’s Gramps (Len) felt Ethan should be outside. At the time, we were conscious of him playing on a hard wooden floor, and the risk of him, and others, having a serious injury were high. The kids were only 5 years old, so understandably they weren’t the most coordinated, and accidents did happen.
I also wanted to go back to the indoor sessions to watch more closely at the coaches. The coaches there really seem to have the kids under complete control, and any lack of behaviour or attention is quickly dealt with. That’s not to say they’re strict, in fact the coaches barely raise their voices, or use any kind of discipline. For most just the threat of discipline is enough, and many of the kids will bend over backwards to please the coaches. One example I noticed was when the kids had done their skills practice (dribbling, turning, etc), and they were asked to sit quietly in the centre circle and listen. Only 1 or 2 kids didn’t do this, and they weren’t being naughty as such, rather they we’re either being cheeky, or just ignoring the coaches. The coaches quickly gave them an ultimatum…
“If I don’t see you sitting quietly in the centre circle, then I will remove your football, and you’ll miss the next part of the session”.
And what did the kids do? As quick as a flash they were in the centre circle, cross legged, gripping their football tightly. The kids knew this wasn’t an empty threat, and their unwanted behaviour had 2 negative consequences. If anything, I think the kids wanted to avoid the embarrassment of having the football taken, and missing out on the next activity. Sitting without a football when all their friends have one wouldn’t look cool! The coaches didn’t need to resort to shouting, empty threats, or physical exercises, either of which probably wouldn’t have done any good anyway.
The coaches also used a random method for deciding the teams for the matches they played in the 2nd half of the evening. They simply had the kids in a line, and assigned them a number, which corresponded to a team. There was no picking of the teams, or dividing the players based on ability. I believe kids need to play and mix with others who are of different development and skills. You learn from your friends, you want to copy the cool tricks, and you want to tackle the best players. Keep the games short, so even if there is a team outscoring the other, the score line may only be 3-0 at most. Then mix the teams up again, and start at 0-0 again.
However I think the coaches are missing a trick. For the matches the kids play 5v5, 6v6 or something like that. They play on a 5 a side size pitch, with quite large goals, for 6 year olds. As with the outdoor training, it was difficult for some kids to get a touch. There’s no reason why the pitch couldn’t be split down the middle, and have 2 games of 3v3, and smaller goals. This is something I’m keen to do.
Also my worry of playing on a hard floor also came flooding back, when Ethan badly timed a tackle, and sent one of his class mates flying into the floor. I think everyone winced as they saw what was happening! It’s that horrible feeling you get when you can see what’s going to happen, and you have no way to stop it. Luckily both he and his friend were OK, free kick given, and the match went on, but it was still a blunt reminder of how hard the floor can be.
Overall I was happy with the training (less happy about paying £6 a session!), but I could see that Ethan was gaining in confidence. It’s quite different playing inside on wooden floors, with lighter footballs, and he took some time to adjust. But as with anything Ethan seems to do, he got stuck in, played well and even captained a team for the matches #prouddad!
I will be keeping Ethan there for the foreseeable future, he loves his football, and can’t see any harm in him going. I will also be watching the coaches, and learning what they do brilliantly, and what they don’t do so well. One thing I’m quite certain though is that for our own training I’d like to avoid playing indoors on hard floors. The risk is too high, and plus any tournament or gala will be played outdoor on grass of 3G. I know the weather conditions in Huddersfield aren’t exactly brilliant, but perhaps that’s something we’ve got to think more about. We don’t want kids breaking a wrist on a wooden floor, but we also don’t want to have to de-frost a child like ice-pop!!