For children who have been part of SupaStrikers, the next step for many is to join a local youth football team. However, choosing the right team is a critical decision; the nearest and/or the most well known team may not always be the best move. Here are some crucial questions that parents should be asking:
- Does the club I am thinking of hold the FA's Charter Standard? This does not mean that clubs who do not hold this are poor clubs, but holding the Charter Standard means the club has been formally assessed as reaching certain standards including policies, coaching levels and child welfare.
- Will my child know anyone at the club. Children often prefer to be with their friends, rather than where the coaching is best, as their main aim is FUN.
- How long are sessions. In my opinion, sessions which are 90 minutes long or more are too long for this age group. 60 minutes is long enough at 5 years old, possibly rising to a maximum of 75 minutes at age 6.
- Are the sessions focused on matchplay or skills development. The latter is the priority at this age group, albeit this should be in a fun way and can include matchplay provided that the over-emphasis is NOT placed on winning.
- Where do the sessions take place. Sessions in the cold, on boggy pitches with long grass, do not enable skills development; they just encourage survival of the fittest/strongest. At this age, kids should be able to learn using the correct size ball, on a surface that encourages skills development e.g. indoor hall, astroturf etc (short grass, if a good surface is also fine at the right times of the year).
- What are the Coaches like and are there enough of them? A highly qualified coach does not necessarily equate to a suitable coach for this age group - the ability to relate to the children, teach them in an age-appropriate way, and motivate them is far more important than holding a UEFA B Licence. I would always recommend asking to watch a couple of sessions before taking your child along; you know your child best, so trust any little alarm bells that begin ringing if you think your child won't like the way a coach runs his/her sessions.
- What are other parents like? Are parents allowed to become too involved i.e. shouting too much, 'coaching' from the sidelines etc. Parents are one one of the biggest reasons children stop enjoying football - the following article is a fantastic read: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/sep/12/grassroots-football-reminders-to-parents
At younger ages, it is worth considering whether a local team is even the best option at present. In some areas, SupaStrikers Coaches may run a MaxiStrikers session for Reception Year children. SupaStrikers members from around the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Evesham areas have always been fortunate that we are part of AT Soccer Camps, a football coaching programme for school-aged children which has been running for 20+ years. In programmes such as this, children can learn and develop at their own pace, without feeling that they are playing for their future place in a team. The Coaches are also highly experienced in working with these age groups and understand what works and what doesn't.
Football is a fantastic sport which can contribute massively to childrens' health and fitness, as well as establishing friends for life. Please take this decision seriously and get it right!
Article by Brian Trott - Director, SupaStrikers Ltd