Thursday, 6 February 2014

Another weekend.........

..........another called off match.

With the UK having a sustained period of wet weather, is now the time to reintroduce the debate about grassroots football being played during summer instead? There are many pros and cons of changing to summer, a few listed here:

Better weather (in the UK, maybe)
Longer days - more matches
Kids can be outdoors longer
Reduced training costs as no need to go indoors

Clash with summer sports
Lack of pitches due to some being on cricket pitches
School summer holidays

The lists could go on depending on which side of the fence you sit. Personally, I don't mind the winter season, but for it to continue I think changes are needed. Maybe introduce smaller leagues and possibly a few weeks break furing Jan/Feb. Maybe this would be an ideal time for Futsal? It's already been introduced by SDJFL for U7-U9 so why not for all age groups?

The clash with summer sports is always a tricky one. This used to be an issue but kids have such a vast choice throughout the year now. It would just mean them making a choice, like they do at the moment between winter activities.

Football has always been a winter sport but maybe now is the time to reassess and maybe change the culture. What do you think?

Friday, 1 November 2013

Putting things into perspective

It was a funny old week last week and one I wouldn't want to repeat in a hurry!  My 6 year old daughter was admitted to Sheffield Children's Hospital on Wednesday with bronchiolitis and it turned out to be a 5 night stay.  With my wife staying in with her, I had the job of arranging for my other 2 boys to be looked after during the day while I was at the hospital and being there for them at night.  I definitely got the better end of the deal though with being able to sleep in my own bed!

As it became apparent we would still be in over the weekend, my thoughts turned briefly to how i would manage to get to our match on Sunday.  Thankfully, the arrangements had already been made with the opposition and a referee had been sorted thanks to the older son of one of our parents.

The game passed and we lost 5-1 to a team we had beat on the last game of last season to win the league.  The result didn't matter, as it never has done.  It's always about the enjoyment for the boys.  But it was the first time in 3 years of coaching that I have thought "I don't really want to be here".

After the game, I took my two sons to the hospital to see their sister and mum for the first time in a few days.  I've also known that family come first, but these last few days have put everything into perspective.

Would I have packed it all in this week?  With the way things have gone, probably.  Will I in the future?  Very doubtful.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review of 9v9

6 games into our 1st season playing 9v9, I thought now would be a good time to review the format.  It's certainly been a learning curve for both players and coaches.  Some of the questions that have gone through my mind are

  • What formation shall we play?
  • What players will play where?
  • How will we adapt to an extra 20 mins playing time?
  • How will we handle the bigger pitches?
All things to consider but not necessarily having a great baring on the way we play.  

It took the players a game to adapt to 9v9.  First game started well and we were 3-0 up by half time.  2nd half saw the opposition pull it back to 3-3.  I believe the reasons were they had become tired by charging round a bigger pitch thinking it was still the SSG pitches.  This and they had the extra 20mins.  I think after the game, they realised they can't do it and would have to think about positioning, holding and making the ball do the work.

Getting the right formation for my players was the biggest thing.  We have tried a number of formations with varying success.  Holding midfielders, attacking midfielders, wing backs, etc.  In the end we have settled for a simple 3-3-2, a formation the players could visualise and understand.  This is not to say trying other formations is out of the question.  As the players, and coaches, become more experienced then changes can be introduced.  Maybe using tactic boards and setting the players out in training will help.
Players over the last couple of seasons had found their positions at 6v6 and 7v7.  This season, as subs have been made, I've asked players to play in different positions.  It's opened my eyes to how players adapt and I believe they have a lot more understanding of the game from playing various positions.

The Pitch
The pitches we have played on have varied.  Ours started as a small 11-a-side pitch played to the 6 yard box.  Markers were used to mark between the edge of the 6 yard box to the touchline.  We have since changed this and have dotted-lines where we had markers.
Other pitches have been similar with one being marked in red within a rugby pitch.  A couple of players forgot early on and proceeded to run the ball out but they quickly adapted.

So, what do we make of 9v9?  Personally, I think it is a huge step forward and great for player development.  The transition from 7v7 to 11-a-side has been made a lot easier by its introduction.  From what I've heard from parents, they agree and can see the benefits.  The extra space allows kids to put a foot on the ball and think before being closed down by 2 or 3 opposition players.  Overall, it's definitely the way forward!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Balancing family and football

I've finally got round to writing another post!  It seems ages ago and since my last post, the following has happened:

  • Season started
  • Ecclesall Rangers U11s have played 5, won 2 drawn 1 and lost 1 
  • Oh, I nearly wife gave birth to our 3rd child!
The latter has taken over life and certainly put everything else on a back burner.  Martha Ava was born on Friday 13th September (our 2nd child to be born on Friday 13th!) which meant missing the game on Sunday (Only my 2nd game in 3 seasons I might add!).  As one parent pointed out, my No2 coach has a 100% win record when I'm not there!

I had all my plans in place before the big day to pass on all football responsibilities and everything seemed to run fairly smoothly for the game I missed.  Everyone involved with the club have been great.  Flowers and card from the parents, presents from parents and club chairman and secretary were all unexpected but a lovely touch.  The football community is like one big family and one I am proud to be involved with!
Martha with flowers and card from ERFC U11s parents - thank you
Now comes the difficult part of trying to fit everything in.  All football admin tasks have taken a back seat and have generally been done at the last minute!  Thankfully the league, Sheffield & District Junior Sunday League, have made things so much easier by making everything online.

So what does Martha think to football?  Well, on Sunday after an hour of getting everything ready to get out of the house (everything takes 4 times as long these days!), my wife and I finally managed to get Martha out to her 1st game.  To be honest, I'm not sure she took it all in!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Preparing for match day

With the 1st match of the new season only 3 days away, and my wife expecting our 3rd child on the same day, I have had to be more prepared than I have ever been.  Match day equipment has been passed on and email drafted in preparation for me not being there for our 1st match.  It then hit me how much is actually involved!

  • Collect registration cards from club chairman
  • Arrange collection of goals
  • Arrange for new kit to be collected
  • Prepare match sheet
  • Organise referee
  • Organise time of kick off
  • Contact opposition with details
  • Email all parents with details
  • Arrange for goals to be stored somewhere
  • Work out substitutions so all get equal playing time
That’s just the pre-match list!  Then there’s the match day list

  • Organise kids
  • Choose captain
  • Exchange match sheets with opposition
  • Do substitutions
  • Pay referee
  • Enjoy the match!
This is all in addition to the pre-season preparation.  Who’d be a volunteer grassroots coach?!?  Me, I wouldn’t swap it for the world! 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Friendlies and kids school holidays

Friendlies are a great way to prepare for the season.  You can take so much from them, especially when the format of the game changes.  The problems arise when the school holidays are just before the start of the new season!  Our 1st and only friendly so far was back in July, just before the kids broke up.  Then the school holidays hit and I lost half of the team.  Don't see this as me complaining because I was also one of those that took a break for a couple of weeks.  I just don't know how other teams manage it.

Over the last few weeks, I received numerous texts, phone calls and emails asking for friendlies but I've had to turn them down.  We have only been managing 6-7 at training to getting at least 9 together for a match on a Sunday is definitely a no-no.  Do these other teams have considerably larger squads than us?  Surely not as we are only allowed a certain number of players in the squad.  Do other kids not go on holiday?  Maybe, or they don't all go at the same time.

We have 14 players, of which 3 or 4 have been unavailable all summer.  That leaves us with 10-11.  Factor in others going away and we are struggling to get a team for the whole summer holidays.

What I do know is come September, I will have a squad of players eager to play.  It may take us a couple of games to get going but they'll learn quickly.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Excitement of Fixture Release Day

The day the new seasons fixtures are released have always been exciting.  Who is our first game against?  Who are we playing over the Christmas period?  Are we at home or away for the final day?  This season is no different for me, other than it's not Sheffield United's fixtures I'm looking at, it's Ecclesall Rangers U11s.

Up until the last Friday, I hadn't realised the Championship, League 1 and League 2 seasons were starting on the Saturday!  Since starting coaching, my interest in the professional game has dwindled.  Not completely, but enough to not worry about it during the close season.  My focus has totally changed to the part of the game I really enjoy.

Today, the fixtures for the SDJSL were released and I did the same as always, first game, Christmas period and last game.  Then after that it was "Are we playing during school holidays?".  Professional clubs don't have to go through this!  It's always a struggle to get a team together at these times.  Many of my team go and visit family or take holidays leaving us with the bear bones.  So these will be the dates I'll be trying to rearrange.

It may be sad, but I still get the buzz of excitement on the day the fixtures are released.  Next week we get to go through it again when we find out our cup opponents!