First of all the caveats. These are my own personal views and opinions, not those of any club or organisation. I also make no apologies for using generalisations in this post since it is the only way to address the topic without using a lot of exceptions or trying to contextualise to the Nth degree. Hopefully, many of you will be able to recognise the various traits in the people around you who fit into the relevant categories. Ok, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s begin and it begins with a conversation I had in the pub last Thursday night.
Every, well nearly every, Thursday night a group of us meet in our local. We’ve been doing this in one form or another for about 12 years now at least and, being a group of lads, we tend to have a few pints and talk absolute drivel, you know the way men do.
Last Thursday night, the topic of conversation turned to kids football and inevitably the behaviour of some coaches and parents. That is very telling. The topic was coaches and parents, not the players themselves or the football that was played, that was almost second to what went on around the match and that in itself is very depressing. I won’t go into all the details but suffice to say that my own experience as a coach and a football parent seems to be commonplace judging by the tales other parents have to tell. Coaches berating players, referees, and parents. Parents, berating coaches, players, referees and even other parents. Coaches with a win at all costs mentality and, if they have coaching qualifications, displaying no insight or profession of teaching, learning and development so crucial to successful coaching in youth football. Parents believing they are watching from the terraces of a professional football club rather than watching their children being taught and coached in the game they profess to love. It’s particularly sad that, having attended several FA coaching courses recently, the FA seem to believe that things are getting better. The fact is that it is not and it will not until a firm grip and some decisive action is taken to bring those coaches and parents concerned kicking and screaming if necessary into the modern game and if they’re not willing to embark and complete the journey then to get them out of the game once and for all with a clear messages that their behaviour is unacceptable.
So what’s the answer? Well here’s what I suggest. It’s radical, you may not agree, but it’s my opinion and it will hopefully spark debate if nothing else.
License coaches. Not just a voluntary licence such as the FA Licensed Coaches Club (a good idea but insufficient in itself), a mandatory licence requiring at least FA Level 1 and revocable by County FAs if the coach does not adhere to a code of conduct or is found guilty of misconduct. I’m going to make an analogy to coaching being about teaching and learning with the field of play being the classroom in which our children perform and you wouldn’t want a non-qualified teacher shouting abuse at your children at school, would you?
No parents near the field of play. That’s right, no parents near the field of play. Not just behind a RESPECT line, nowhere, and I mean nowhere, near the field of play. I realise what sort of reaction that will provoke. Remember I’m a football parent too, I have two daughters who both play, but the fact is that at the risk of pitching the well-behaved parents in with the badly-behaved, parents cannot be trusted to remain calm and detached enough to let the coaches and most importantly the players to get on with the game. It’s what happens at Academies and if it’s good enough for them then it should be good enough for the grassroots too. Taking parents away from the field of play will take a load of pressure off both the players and the coaches. It will turn the field of play into a classroom instead of a bear-pit. I mean, after all, you don’t expect to be able to watch your kids in the classroom at school and barrack the teachers and the kids when they do things wrong or don’t put in enough effort, do you?
PS Whilst writing this I see that reports are coming in that Raheem Sterling the young, talented Liverpool player is to appear on a charge of common assault on a women causing facial injuries. Enough of grassroots coaches and football parents, perhaps it’s time that our professional footballers started setting an example worthy of following.