Tag: academies

Are British players being stifled of creative ingenuity

Result orientated football and emphasis on a passing game strips away ingenuity, whilst pressure from adults promotes the player to make the safe option. “None of that silly stuff”. How many times have you heard an adult shout that?

There are very few coaches and adults that promote and prioritise ball mastery and tricks in this country, certainly not in a game situation.

Recently, I saw footage of a foreign boy beating players with brilliant individual trickery – and instantly I thought, I’m not hopeful I will ever see that within the English game at any level.

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Think back to the England national side playing some of the ‘minnows’. Iceland at the Euros for example. The recurring theme throughout is a boring English display struggling to break down defences, players lacking confidence and creativity to beat players 1v1. If only we had a Ronaldo, Messi, Robben, Hazard, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Cantona, Maradonna…it’s never going to happen if things remain. Why?

Academies and the like appear to be doing more damage than good too. The pressure for kids to keep their place brings about a sense of fear. Status and compliance with the norm overrides any potential brilliance and the desire to reveal world class talent. A professional academy is not perceived to be the place to try different things. Make mistakes and potentially embarrass yourself? God forbid – that craziness is for the back garden only. At the worst, one wrong move and you could be out. At the best the onlooking dad will criticise afterwards.

That foreign kid in the footage, how many times do you think he made errors before he pulled his wizardry off? One thing doing it in the garden – another pulling it off on the pitch.

I’ve spent enough time in the presence of football academies, schools and UEFA qualified coaches and I can count on one hand the step-overs I’ve seen. Not one flip flap, maybe the odd roulette, Cruyff turns yes but not a McGeady turn, the odd Rabona in play yes, but nothing like the skills we should be seeing. Too much “get the ball on the deck and play football”. Only Gazza gets close. And the proof – how many English lads play on the continent?

Kids need to be taught a vast library of skills and tricks, like a dictionary of basic English vocabulary. And be encouraged to take that into games from an early age.

Firstly, the adults need educating. I cringe when I see a brave young pro run at defenders and lose the ball. Not because the player may have lost possession but because of the inevitable stick he’s about to receive from the ‘fans’. Immediately his confidence is knocked. If he’s fortunate to stay on the pitch you can guarantee he will play the ball sideways or backwards next time he’s in possession.

Occasionally, there are exceptions to the rule. Germany’s work rate, discipline and team work help them achieve more often than not. But as for England, without truly world class individual talent (and that’s far more than athletes with speed) the quarter finals is probably the best we can hope for and as other nations improve our ambitions could even be reduced to simply qualifying for major tournaments.

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried – grass roots ‘success’ should not be about winning, poaching or even passing the Barcelona way. It should be about freedom to express repeatedly without fear of failure the ambition to instinctively beat your opponent with skill.

Author  Christian Polzin

The problem with academies…

There’s no doubt that football academies are harsh environments. The FA’s official website even describes the process of getting released by one as ‘heart-breaking’, which, considering they’re trying to increase participation levels, is hardly encouraging…

It’s entirely truthful though and not particularly surprising; when the stakes are so high, the consequences of being rejected become even more considerable. The disappointment of being let go by a big-name Premier League club would be enough to crush any youngster so, when the huge financial influence is also factored in, the pressure can often become unbearable.

Continue reading “The problem with academies…”

The problem with academies…..

Many thanks to Dan Yeo for this piece on football academies in England.

There’s no doubt that football academies are harsh environments. The FA’s official website even describes the process of getting released by one as ‘heart-breaking’, which, considering they’re trying to increase participation levels, is hardly encouraging…

It’s entirely truthful though and not particularly surprising; when the stakes are so high, the consequences of being rejected become even more considerable. The disappointment of being let go by a big-name Premier League club would be enough to crush any youngster so, when the huge financial influence is also factored in, the pressure can often become unbearable.

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Children not even old enough to attend secondary school are exposed to a stressful, ruthless environment in which their every move is carefully monitored and analysed. Those judged to be progressing too slowly are filtered out of the system as early as possible, but the players really at risk are the ones that succeed in making the first few cuts.

The reason for this is simple and something the FA’s site also alludes to; young footballers tend to get carried away. Tell a ten-year-old he’s good and he’ll dream about being the next Messi. Tell a sixteen-year-old he’s good and he’ll think he really is the next Messi. The further teenagers progress down the path of becoming a professional footballer, the more they begin to prioritise the beautiful game over everything else in their lives. Football, for many, becomes an obsession and this is something that authorities need to guard against.

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While it’s fantastic that the next generation are competitive and hungry to do well, the current clamour for more home-grown talent and the amount of money being spent on the best academy graduates means that, if anything, academies are encouraging rather than discouraging this kind of compulsive attitude. This has to change.

Spurring youth players on to succeed at all costs may benefit those who finally make the grade but, for the majority who don’t, it can very seriously damage their career prospects and later lives. The PFA estimates that, for every five players offered academy scholarships, only two will receive full-time contracts at the age of eighteen and only one will still be playing professionally by the time they’re twenty-one.

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