Are Our Kids Over Coached, Under Coached, or Wrongly Coached ?

dennis hillyardContributor IJanuary 15, 2009

As a follow-up to my recent article on here regarding the future of the game I would state the following.

As a youngster growing up in a poor suburb of London, England football as we know it today at the grass root level simply did not exist.   There were no clubs or leagues and coaching was almost unheard of.

As a result, we would race home from school, grab a glass of milk, and then it was out in the street to play until it was too dark to see the ball.

We developed our skills for example, by learning to stay on our feel because, to fall on the tarmac road surface would result in all manners of cuts and bruises.

Change of direction, moves, and etc. came about by learning to dodge other players, who were far bigger and older than ourselves, rather than dribbling in and out of stationary cones.

As I result, I firmly believe that "street football' as it was known then, produced far more naturally developed players, than in today's game.

I have already expressed my concerns regarding Charles Hughes and his antiquated coaching theories, one of which was that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line accordingly, and the fewer passes from one end of the pitch to the other will produce more goals."

Of course, in part this is true but, by the same token, as a former defender, if every opposing team simply played the long ball all of the time, then my game would have been easy simply because it is so predictable.

Another reason for my concerns regarding the Hughes philosophy is based upon a personal experience.

Participating in one of his courses I was being evaluated in a four versus four session, when one of the players called for a pass.

I stopped the session, and asked the player whether, or not, he felt he was a) in a good position to receive a pass, and b) if not then where should he move to?

He thought for a moment, took up a new position, and the drill continued where he received a pass and promptly scored a goal.

The examining coach called me to one side and told me that I should never engage in a discussion with a player as this was inviting confrontation.

When I replied that in my opinion it was far better for the player to "think for himself," rather than me telling him what to do, the examiner replied and I quote:

"What you do in your own time is up to you, but while on this course you will adhere to the instruction given."

The reason I have quoted this is because previously I had spent a week at the Ajax FC Youth Academy in Holland.  There the coaches would organize small-sided games, something not heard of in England at the time, and would simply stand on the touch line, let the kids play, and just make notes.

After the game, the coaches and players would assemble and the coaches would ask certain youngsters about something they had done during the game.  If they thought it was correct, and if not, why not ?

In other words, allowing the kids to express themselves freely, but still letting the kids be aware of any errors, and allowing them to correct the errors if possible.

If we then ask ourselves over the years, which country England, or Holland, has produced more "quality" players, and teams, then the answer is obvious.

Today, and at every level, the English game is all about winning.

Kids as young as six and seven, having to play in organized competitive leagues, and even where the most caring of parents will ask a youngster arriving home from a game:

"Did you win?" Not "Did you have a good game?" or "Did you enjoy yourself?"

Malcolm Allison who, for me, was the most innovative coach to come out of the English game once told a group of coaches including myself:

                "You coaches need the kids far more than they need you."

Place a ball in a field, and a group of kids come along.  They will then organize themselves into two teams, then they will argue, and dispute decisions, but then all go home tired, and muddy, but happy, and probably not caring who won or lost.

The Moral:  All done without a parent, referee, or coach in sight.

So then, am I decrying modern coaching?   Exactly the opposite, in fact my criticism is solely aimed at those coaches in England who still continue to use the Charles Hughes publication "Tactics and Skills" as their bible when coaching youngsters.

Had Hughes marketed this book as a cure for insomnia then he would be a millionaire by now!

What I am saying is that it is time for those coaches to take off the blinkers, start to examine, and adopt other methods of coaching from other countries, and to stop using "grass roots football" as a yardstick based upon the number of games their kids win as a measure of their own coaching abilities.

In addition, why not try developing your own coaching methods, drill, and etc. instead of taking them out of a book?

The five levels of coaching at the basic level are first touch, control, passing and receiving, dribbling, and finally shooting and heading.

Whilst there are only five countless different drills, and ways, to teach them.  Rather than spending countless hours reading up on the Charles Hughes bible.

If not, then why not simply give the game back to the kids, because at least they cannot do any worse than what they are being taught now.

In closing, my remarks are not aimed at all English coaches.  We have some excellent ones at every level.  

Dennis Hillyard.

English Coach (USA)

Please feel free to email me with your comments whether in agreement or not.


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