Last Sunday, my sons team (I am one of the coaches) were playing an u8 football match in the the late summer sunshine. We arrived early, had a fun and enjoyable warm up and got ready for the first game of the season away from home. I was stood on the side of a beautifully kept football pitch, in a lovely London park. Life was good. I was treated to a fantastic team performance from our lads, but I was more than a little disturbed to hear the bedside manner of the opposition manager throughout. Remember, this was a match played by seven year old boys and girls.
The game started close enough, but by the end we had run out comfortable winners, and with every goal the opposition conceded their manager would become more and more negative. He shouted things like “this is just awful” and “that’s so naive” to his seven year old players, and I actually felt sorry for them. Random, hard to follow vagaries such as “we’ve got to find space” jumped from his mouth and fell on confused, little ears.
There must have been around 50 family members watching from the other side of the pitch, and from what I could hear they were behaving well, and trying to enjoy the game. The opposition manager seemed to be hating every minute of it though, and his negativity from the other side of the pitch hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“You’re making them look good!” he shouted to his young players in an accusing tone, and more than once. I commented to a few parents afterwards that the man in question, for me, represented so much of what is wrong with youth football coaching.
I am wrestling with so many questions after witnessing this grass roots coaching horror show. How does a man like this get to manage a group of seven year old children? Do the children’s parents not realise that it is totally inappropriate behaviour, or has a diet of Premiership football and Sky Sports made them think that if people like Tim Sherwood act that way, then maybe it’s Ok? What can we do to stop people like that running kids teams?
As we walked off the pitch, he had his players sat in a tight circle and was giving them a thorough debriefing. I couldn’t help but wonder if every one of them would rather have been anywhere else.