INSPIRE Blog: Elimination is bad news!

The role of community football clubs is to provide an inclusive and enjoyable environment for players, to play football within. With this being said, how inclusive are we? And do we always provide an environment for players to practice their football? 

Fortunately, the majority of grassroots football clubs and associations provide opportunities for males and females, young and old, abled and non-abled people. 

So the question now comes to how inclusive we are during our practices to ensure that everyone involved has a good opportunity to learn, practice and enjoy the game? 

After countless hours observing community coaches in the chilly winter air I feel that we are simply not doing enough to help our weaker players to improve. However, I am beginning to see coaches delivering organised and enjoyable sessions that look like football!! 

Most would tick the box and walk away, job done. 

I guess I’m not most.  

My question to coaches: 

“Does the exercise or game allow players to repeat the situation in which they are making the mistake?” 

Take bull-rush. Great game. 

Five players line up on one end of a rectangle and attempt to run/dribble their ball to the opposite end without getting tipped/ball kicked out by the ‘defender’ in the middle. If a player is tipped or their ball kicked out they join the defenderThe game continues and overtime the defenders build up in numbers until everyone is ‘out’ and the game restarts. 

Here lies my issue, can you see it? 

(Generally) Describe who you think the first player to have their ball kicked out will be? 

The weak player, slow player, easy target, less skilful player, less competitive player…. 

The above description outlines a standard community player. A community player that needs the practice more than others, yet through our fun game we eliminate them and don’t allow them to try again and again and again and again. 

Lets also think about the games we are playing. Does the game truly encourage players to keep possession, work together and score goals?  

If we take the above bull-rush game as an example, it is clear it does not. When we encourage our players to ‘KICK the ball out’ in elimination games, we are ultimately asking them to dispossess the opponent, followed by dispossessing themselves. At no point are we teaching them that defending in football is about dispossessing (tackling) an opponent, whilst afterwards attempting to keep possession and attack. 

Imagine if all your players did on the weekend was kick the ball out of play. You would be speechless, yet we are training them to do so! 

The solution – Can we avoid elimination in games? 

My football take on bull-rush = Soccer-rush. 

The exact same setup.  

Five players on one end of the rectangle attempt to dribble to the other side of the area avoiding the defender in the middle.  

However, the defender’s role is to dispossess one of the ‘attackers’. After dispossessing the attacker their aim then becomes to accelerate away (with the ball) towards the opposition end line, along with the other attackers.  

The dispossession player becomes the new ‘defender’, and the game continues. 

As the kids play you will see that they begin to think more about their tackle, more about their ball manipulation and more about the decisions they are making. No longer will we see defenders kick the ball out – why? – because in a real football game if you kick the ball out of play, the opposition get the ball back, simple. 

Imagine our players in the future. Players that always try to keep the ball rather than kicking it out. Players that are comfortable on the ball when under pressure. Players that love playing football. 

The role to produce these players does not sit with Ange Postecoglou. The role sits with you. 

“You play the way you practice” – Unknown 

Before: 

Game begins………out, out, out, out…………………………….Johnny is the winner. 

Game begins…………..out, out, out, out………………………………………….Johnny is the winner 

After: 

Game begins ……..nice tackle…..good acceleration…..great 1vs1…..can you protect the ball?…. nice tackle….can you stay on your feet?…..good job etc…etc.. 

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