Children see the sport and activity and how it is managed, coached and reflected in the club. Just like their family backgrounds, they accept what they perceive as the norm – so we need to ensure that the agendas and complexity of managing an association does not affect them – Dr. Martin Toms (Footblogball Interview March 2014)
Recently English club Fulham FC posted on social media information about their Pre- Academy Talent Identification day. Children as young as under 5 are invited. The introduction statement informed us that Fulham Football Club were in search of new talent. Also, stating the child’s preferred position was recommended when parents sent in their application.
Naturally this caused a huge debate on Social Media. What really surprised me was the type of questions asked and excuses pawned off in defense. Thankfully, the majority of comments on social media were very critical.
For me one vital element in all this was never discussed. The role of the parent. After all it will more than likely be a parent filling out the application form and transporting their child (under 5!) to this Talent Identification day. How informed are these parents? If we reinvented youth sports, started from scratch and placed the physical and emotional needs of children first, would it look like this?
As the race to the bottom gathers pace I feel that there are two areas we must place a larger focus on if we are to develop a more informed opinion around what has already become a highly polarised debate.
- Education of coach educators (see link here)
- Parent education
Here are some ideas that I use for my Parent Education Workshops. Though, for me the real value is within the discussions that emerge as the material is absorbed.
As many as possible, as long as possible in the best enviroment possible
- This is a club for children, young players and their parents. Without parent support and involvement there is simply no club. We understand the importance of parents engaging themselves in the club. Therefore, it is vital that the club provides the parents with a clear and transparent picture as to how the club operates.
- If we only see children as players, then we will view the family separate from the club. By this we mean that the family is expected to do its job and leave the football education solely to the club. If the club sees the young players as children, then it is possible to see both family and club as partners in the child’s learning and development
- The coach and the parent are often the same person in many grassroots clubs
Create a culture of trust
If all people (coach, parent, leaders) around the child send the same message, then it is easier for the child to interpret.
Create a forum to facilitate discussion – We are educating each other
- Offer coach education to parents
- Organise educational workshops to develop and facilitate discussion
- Recommend literature, seminars, events, lectures
A vision that drives our work
- As many as possible, as long as possible, in the best environment possible
- Participation, performance, personal development
- Motivation climate where development is central and the focus is on learning
- Flexibility and patience – biopsychosocial development in a sporting context
- Development does not happen in a vacuum. We the club are one part of a system (School, parents, peers, other sports organisations)
The development process is nonlinear
and we must support this
Therefore, we need……….
A commitment to learning and development
The culture of youth sports should be seen and understood as a good environment for learning. Not just the opportunity to learn skills that will benefit development in the sport, but even those that can be applied to life in general. The biopsychosocial differences between children as they grow have a big impact on their willingness to learn and develop
Children do not develop in a linear fashion and we must support that
Chronological age v Biological age
Chronological age: The amount of years that have passed since birth
Biological age: ”Physical maturity” age. For example, a 9 year- old can have a biological age of 7 or 11.
Development is very sensitive and will affect the overall mental state.
Development is also influenced by and dependent on the integration of organisational systems (family, team, sports organisations, societies, cultures). We may conceptualise sport involvement as a system of integrated personal and social variables that interact and shape development
Let us not forget that all this takes place in what is fast becoming an increasingly prestigious area of sport
“I am often surprised when I compare child and youth environments and see the stress that occurs there with the real elite environments of adult sport. I myself have been involved in preparations for European Championship and World Cup games in table tennis and football with both the senior and junior national teams and with club teams. Unfortunately, there is way more stress, induced by grown-ups evident in child and youth sport. Why this is so is actually incomprehensible to me. It is from the “support environment” that emerge our strongest “winners”. Anyone who believes that it is done by “survival of the fittest” should think again and try for example to create a motivational climate instead. They will be surprised how effective it is. (Johan Fallby (Footblogball interview Dec 2015)
- “It is society’s expectations of professional sport that has screwed up our focus on learning and development of children in sport” -Lynn Kidman (Footblogball Interview March 2014)
- “They see the sport and activity and how it is managed, coached and reflected in the club. Like their family backgrounds, they accept what they experience as the norm – so we need to ensure that the agendas and complexities of adults when ‘running’ clubs do not affect them.”- Martin Toms (Footblogball Interview March 2014)
- “There is a significant conflict between how children learn and how elite programmes work. Until very recently, talent development programmes were designed without any reference or consideration to healthy development, and treated children like mini adults. Let’s be honest, though, most elite sports programmes are not designed to meet children’s needs; they are designed entirely for adult ambitions:” – Richard Bailey (Footblogball Interview November 2014)
Gör det bättre själv om du kan forskning och praktiska råd till föräldrar med idrottande barn (Research and practical advice to parents with children involved in sport . available only in Swedish) – Johan Fallby. Available here.
International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development (Michael F Bergeron, Margo Mountjoy, Neil Armstrong, Michael Chia, Jean Côté, Carolyn A Emery, Avery Faigenbaum, Gary Hall Jr, Susi Kriemler, Michel Léglise, Robert M Malina, Anne Marte Pensgaard, Alex Sanchez, Torbjørn Soligard, Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, Willem van Mechelen, Juanita R Weissensteiner, Lars Engebretsen)
The Brain in Spain (Sid Lowe, Blizzard issue 1, 55-64, 2011)
The Dynamic Process of Development through Sport (Jean Côté, Jennifer Turnnidge, M. Blair Evans, Kinesiologia Slovenica, 20, 3, 14-26; 2014)
The Standard Model of Talent Development and it’s Discontents (Bailey, R.P: & Collins, D. The Standard Model of Talent Development and its Discontents, Kinesiology Review, 2, 248-259)
Where you grow up matters for sporting success – that’s why Yorkshire cricketers are so good (Dr Martin Toms, 2015, https://theconversation.com/where-you-grow-up-matters-for-sporting-success-thats-why-yorkshire-cricketers-are-so-good-44157 )