Fight ball to football
Page 2, Second edition of the FFA National Curriculum a sub-heading stands out “From ‘fightball’ to football”
The 2013 edition of the National Curriculum gave us the first roadmap to footballing success for our nation, providing coaches up and down the coast a blueprint of the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ involved in developing our next Matilda and Socceroo.
As I scan Page 2 I came across the next bold, italicised font.
“All the organisations focused on development above and beyond winning on match day”
It was not talking about us, or any other sporting code in Australia. It was talking about Bayern Munich, Ajax, Barcelona and the Clairefontaine French national training academy. It was an exert taken from work by Chris Sulley in his research study from 2011.
Since this time, Australian football has seen a cultural shift. Our MiniRoos (Under 6 – 11) age groups are known and promoted as ‘non-competitive’, yet I do not think the Australian public truly understands what it all means.
The ‘Uncompetitive’ tagline was adopted in comparison to the old ‘win at all costs’ mentality that existed across the land. Uncompetitive was introduced to shift the focus from the match day result towards the players ability, collectively and individually whilst playing football.
Uncompetitive does not mean we want our kids to lose. Uncompetitive does not mean we want our kids to not care. Uncompetitive means that we care more about your child than the match day result.
An Under 6 match is different to that of an Under 9 match. An Under 9 match is different from an Under 12 match, and astoundingly an Under 12 match is very different from an all age fixture. Therefore, how we approach each ‘stage’ of a players football education must be different and age appropriate. What works in adult football will not always work in kids football – and vice versa.
The saying goes;
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”
This is how junior and youth football should be approached, with sights set on the future rather than the here and now.
Coaches can teach an Under 9 how to win games, its easy.
- “The goalkeeper is three foot tall, just kick it over their head”
- “In order to score we must be close to the goal – kick for territory as soon as possible”
- “Don’t do anything risky, clear it out of our half”
This coach’s appetite will be pleased for the day, another victory for them.
Fast forward a few years. Same coach, team, approach and opposition, now Under 13. The players step up to ‘full size field’ football, playing 11 verse 11 on a field roughly 100m long and 50m wide, it’s a whooper.
The ‘territory approach’ loses its effectiveness as players that could ‘kick it’ half the field distance in Under 11 can now only gain a third of the field. However, something different is happening. Every time the ball is ‘cleared’ or ‘kicked long’ for territory the opposition control it and form an attack, wave after wave latching onto ‘clearances’. For those watching on the sideline the penny drops. The opposition are comfortable on the ball, playing passes to each other, supporting each other as a team and…..and…..scoring goals.
Unfortunately, the ‘Territories’ only have one solution to the constant wave of attack, to ‘kick it long’.
Rewind back to Under 9. In order to prepare our players for the game ‘in the future’ we must teach them the fundamentals of football. This begins with the technical skills (passing, shooting, dribbling etc…), then we expose our players to problem solving and decision making (the most important of all skills) and as time progresses we enhance and build on these, adding psychological, physical, tactical and social elements.
Our curriculum outlines age appropriate progression for developing footballers, step-by-step, skill by skill to ensure the player is enjoying themselves and learning every time they step on the field.
“Enjoyment is having the ball at your feet, and being involved with the team play”
– Under 10 player
How to play your part.
Under 6 & 7 – Develop a players love for a ball at their feet.
This stage should be known as ‘the ball and me’. Encourage players to dribble and weave their way around defenders, manipulating the ball with both feet. Players at this age have not yet fully grasped the concept of ‘team’ and therefore we need to encourage their individual creativity.
Under 8 & 9 – Introduce team mates
If the above has been followed then all players will be comfortable with the ball at their feet. Begin to encourage link up play between teammates, using short passes and movement to move up and down the field. Creativity should be rewarded and encouraged.
Under 10 – 12 – Creativeness
Focus on players individual skills (The four core skills from the National Curriculum) and include elements of decision making to challenge players to make their own decision, in real time, within games and exercises. Players would have developed a deep love with the ball at their feet by this point. Coupled with their understanding that together is better than alone you will begin to see a collective creativeness begin to foster and the art of football being explored.
Under 13 – Under 16 – Intelligence
The technical skills of the game must be applied, however begin to shift trainings towards realistic ‘match-day’ scenarios with lots of decision-making. Players in this age bracket require football knowledge to be communicated to them, teaching player specific and team collective knowledge to challenge and improve.
Under 18 + – Performance based
Development never stops. Practice all of the above, and then do it again until the body gives out and players become our next crop of coaches to accelerate our nation.
We can only control, what we can control
Next time you step onto the training field or the sideline, you are in control. It is then your decision about which path you take. To feed your players their fish for a day, or teach them to fish for a lifetime.
I guarantee, the ‘now’ may not get the results you are after. The ‘now’ may leave you hungry in the stomach for an extra hour or so. However in the long run, those that persevere, challenge and apply themselves will feast for a lifetime.
Dare I say it, “uncompetitive” is not for the kids. The uncompetitive tagline is for the coaches and the parents.
Choose your words wisely from the sideline, in the car ride home and when watching junior and youth football. If you think kids are uncompetitive then I guess you haven’t met a kid.