It's worth remembering 11-year-olds simply enjoy playing football with their friends
By Peter Glynn - Thursday, 12 March, 2009
FA Skills Coach Peter Glynn examines the role of 'the manager'.
FA Skills Coach and TheFA.com columnist Peter Glynn explores why we enjoy the identity of being ‘the manager’ of a team, but asks us to consider whether or not children actually need somebody to be ‘in charge’.Whenever friends and relatives gather at my Mum’s house for Christmas, a family birthday, or any other annual excuse for pots of tea and cake, I find myself enduring the same press conference-style grilling, usually served up by the quote-hungry national media for the likes of Benitez and Ferguson. This weekend was no different. “Still doing your football, Peter?” the assembled press asked, whilst eating the shortcake which Mum only gets out on special occasions.“You’ll be England manager one day boy.” Whether through blissful ignorance or genuine forgetfulness, it seems to slip the mind of those closest to me that the oldest children I work with are just 11 years old and simply enjoy playing with their friends. Either way they continue to quiz me on the fortunes of our footballing nation.But deep down I enjoy basking in the feeling of reflected importance and play along. This weekend I even let my mind wander for a second; imagining myself indulging in a verbal joust with the baying national press, justifying my tactics and outlining my future transfer targets for my U9s team.“You must have some gud’ un’s coming through that’ll be in the England team soon, no?” one of the family asks.“We’ve got one or two who are showing some signs of promise,” I explain with confidence.Sensing an opportunity to delve further into my portfolio of football clichés, assembled from years watching football on TV, I announce: “But it’s a bit too early to say. We’ll have to see how they progress between now and the end of the season.” What am I saying? What’s ‘too early to say’? What do I mean ‘progress’? I’m talking about eight-year-olds! But I’m in the mood now. Leaning back in my chair and crossing my legs with the same suave sophistication of a young Mourinho: “Although we’ve got one or two with talent, I don’t think their mobiles are likely to be flashing ‘Fabio’ on the eve of the national squad’s next get together just yet. But we’ll keep working at it,” I pronounce. “Next question, please.”
I remember I had just finished reading Clive Woodward’s book ‘Winning’, when I took my first tentative steps into what I then believed was ‘coaching’ and ‘management’ of U9s footballers. Clive’s book had described how he’d built a formidable World Cup-winning Rugby Union side through detailed organisation and preparation; leaving nothing to chance. I was sure I could do the same with my squad. With enough inspirational quotes to invigorate a small army, I planned for my first team talk with militaristic precision. I was going to explain the virtues of dedication and work rate, and the importance of giving yourself over to the cause of winning.I even tried to find a jumper with a collar that I could turn up, so I could look like him. Instead I settled for a tracksuit with my initials on instead.But just over an hour after my rousing speech and experiencing the excitement of my first game ‘in charge’, I was trudging back to the car park with both the kit bag and the weight of the world on my shoulders, staring into the aftermath of a 4-2 defeat.“If only I’d played three at the back and an extra man in midfield,” I said to myself, as I promised to look closer at why our chosen system hadn’t worked this week in training.“We’ll come back stronger characters from this,” I muttered.As I neared my car, I concluded that the time was right to put an advert in the paper for a ‘Solid and reliable eight-year-old goalkeeper, who was adept at dealing with crosses’. It just hadn’t worked out for, Sam, our 'keeper, and maybe it was time that he moved on. Somewhere on the other side of the car park Tyler, aged eight, my most experienced player with five games to his name and no goals, was discussing with Dan, aged nine, my ball playing defensive midfield ‘screen’, about how the team move on from here. “Are you going to Sam’s birthday party this afternoon? I think it’ll be good,” asked Tyler.“I will if we have those party rings like last time,” replied Dan. I’d never considered the four goals could have been down to nutritional habits.“I needed to get some diet sheets,” I thought to myself.To comment on this article please e-mail Peter by clicking here. For more information on The FA Tesco Skills Programme and free football videos, tips and advice visit TheFA.com/Skills.
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