EVERYONE PLAYS, EVERYONE BENEFITS

Aidan Isherwood from KAFA retuns to FOOTBLOGBALL .

Everyone plays, everyone benefits.

Looking back again at street football. Remember what used to happen when someonecame along and asked to play? They were put into one of the teams. Simple as that. If it imbalanced the teams, one better player would be swapped from the side with more players.Or something like that. Solutions would be arrived at very quickly. Decisions were made by the oldest or more experienced and the vital social art of making fair teams and therefore good games was quickly passed down through the years.
Not something that goes on so often these days. You can see matches between nine-year-olds where one team is short a player, while the other team has five subs who don’t all get on the field. Most children’s football experience is limited to going to a football club and playing for a team where no player is more than 12 months older or younger than any other. So all authority and all decision-making resides with the adults who coach the team. We’re talking social skills here perhaps more than football skills. But if you look at the player who neverpasses, the one who gives up because the team are behind, the one who folds if a teammate suggests he wakes up and listens, or the one who screams with frustration at the lesser players around him, you’ll remember how technical skills alone are worthless without parallel social and emotional development.
Of course, if you’re a coach, it would be a nightmare trying to organise a structured session with a few athletic six-year-olds who run around with their heads down, a couple of ten year-olds who have never played before, a couple of experienced and skillful 8-9 year-olds and an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy affecting one side of his body. You’d be much happier streaming them, by age, by ability.
We run groups at KAFA were within age ranges of 3-4 years we say everyone, boy, girl,novice, veteran can play. Sometimes we get a group where a lot of friends join and others hear about it and come along and you end up with a fairly similar standard of player. These are great groups to train. But other times we get mixtures like the one described above. And it is a privelege to witness the chemistry between these children who would normally be segregated. And to see how much they all benefit from the group.
The boy with a disability experiences not only the elusive joy of being part of a group activity with other able-bodied children, but also the joy of scoring vital goals in tight matches. The younger boys are playing frantically with older boys and gently and slowly realising they should sometimes defend and sometimes pass. The more developed players, instead of dribbling through the opposition to prove themselves to their peers, are orchestrating the play by passing, moving, instsructing their team mates and communicating in a way they would never have to in a typically segregated group. Because if they don’t do it, no one else will and the game will be no fun. Playing almost Xavi roles, way beyond their years.
Soon most of them will be moving on to join teams, but these learning experiences will remain

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4 thoughts on “EVERYONE PLAYS, EVERYONE BENEFITS

  1. Very nice piece. Took me back to when I was a kid… and never got chosen for football. Sometimes I was a defender and then the whole team would be told to keep the ball as far ahead as possible and under no circumstances pass it to the skinny moron at left back. However, Aiden your account of your work with kids’ football sounds great.By a strange coincidence I too am involved in youth football here in my village, both boys teams and girls teams. Every so often I get a call from some enraged parent accusing me of deselecting his child or that little micky wont be wearing his sports bra or some such confusing nugget of sporting info. Unfortunately both the real coach and myself have exactly the same name, not only that him and his wife used to live in my previous house! Talk about weird.

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