Contributed by Dennis Hillyard, FLMSL Head Coach
During the nineties I was the Soccer Development Director to Milton Keynes a large city twenty miles north of London. At the time I was running a Saturday morning coaching academy for 7yr – 10yr children.
One of the lads was not particularly gifted as a player but he loved his soccer, always full of enthusiasm, the first to arrive and the last to leave after assisting me to collect in the equipment etc. One Sunday I stopped to watch a junior game. It was a particularly cold day with a constant light drizzle of freezing rain and I noticed the lad in question sitting huddled up on the substitutes bench looking blue with the cold.
There was about ten minutes remaining when I asked the coach the score to which he replied that his team were winning 9 – 0. I then asked him if he intended giving the lad in question a run out? “No chance, we need all the goals we can get to win the league and he is useless”. Sometime later I met his mother who advised me that the lad had given up football but that he had become very withdrawn and that his school world was also suffering.
Later I learned that the team had won the league and that the coach had been voted “Coach Of The Year‟ !!!!! The other example was a lad who was at the same academy. This was an eight year old who was extremely small for his age but he possessed so much ability in that he could shoot and dribble with either foot, had great awareness and communication skills that in my mind he had all the potential to go on to play at a much higher level.
After a year his father advised me that the lad was leaving the academy to join a U11 team in a local league. I attempted to advise him against the move as he would be playing with and against lads two years older than him and physically, much, much bigger but to no avail. Later I observed him playing where he was easily the best player on view but at the same time he was literally being „kicked off the pitch by the older opponents.
Once again I learned later that the lad was no longer playing anymore.
What a terrible indictment but just two of many examples of the harm being done to our younger generation of players simply in order to fulfill the self inflated ego‟s of coaches and parents who, although in the minority, still manage to cause the majority of damage.