Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Recipe: Footie Fun

1 football pitch with all-weather surface
6 goals
6 coaches
60-odd children
48 footballs
  1. Divide the children into teams of ten.
  2. Assign one coach to each team.
  3. Place teams in front of goals.
  4. Begin training.
A humid, heavy sky - the sort you imagine falling on your head - hung menacingly. I went to register my youngest who wants to do football this year, and ended up staying to watch him for an hour and a half after he'd been posted through the door onto the all-weather pitch and melted into a group of boys.

Youthful trainers set them practicing passes, shooting at goal, quick starts and agility. Pairs competed. There was no namby pamby 'everyone's a winner, babe', but everyone was encouraged. The exercises were kept simple; everyone benefitted, had fun and got to touch the ball.

The groups then came together and formed 3 teams: 2 of youngsters, 1 of older children. The older kids played on half a pitch and the others played on a quarter of a pitch. They wore coloured vests which, on the smaller boys hung like a mini dress. Little leaders emerged and tried to be made captain. You could see, even now, the calculating of others as they assessed how to play the situation. Others recognised the leaders and joined forces. The coaches monitored play and ensured everyone behaved decently, no one bullied anyone smaller and everyone had a chance to touch the ball. The chiefs were not necessarily the best players, even though they would be hard-pressed to admit it.

Some of the children were very small despite being of similar ages, but they played manfully with the others. Little legs raised to stop the ball were often lacking in length to be effective and much time was spent running after an errant football that had flown past a misjudged foot. Clumps of kids ran up and down the pitch, regularly separated by the coach and sent back to their positions. Members of the same team tackled each other to play the ball, or sent it smack into the opposition.

My youngest spent much time on the floor. He enjoys falling over and this gave him lots of opportunities for tumbling over feet, bumping off an opponent, tackling a little too physically and tripping over his own feet. He also ran determinedly up and down, did a super line throw and kicked the ball with vigour whenever he got the chance. The score was a goal-less draw, but it was not for lack of trying to get the ball through the posts.

I was impressed by the enthusiasm and skill of the coaches, the structure of the training, and the general ambiance of the club. I'm sure my youngest will thrive.

I am planning for a comfortable retirement...

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