RIP Mini Soccer

'You only need to use one foot as you'll be a left midfielder'  Local coach to child aged 4.5

What happened Mini Soccer & the enjoyment in kids football?  I notice it with my own programme that toddlers finishing our Toddler Soccer classes are bypassing our Mini Soccer sessions so they can get straight into the competitive world of senior football aged 5.  Do parents not realise that children need to develop their football ability & understanding the same way as they need to progress in school?  My report will annoy a few 'coaches' & clubs but I want that.  I want a bloody reaction as I've never seen youth football so poor in over 25 years involved in football.

My philosophy. centered on the European approach, continues to be successful when developing children.  It seems to good to be true...maybe it seems so simple that I insure well planned sessions that focus on the child.  Maximum touches, plenty of 1 v 1's developing to small sided games, encouraging freedom & creativity but offering education & development all in a fun environment.  Put simply we develop the child in the right way insuring a good technical basis along with game understanding that we adapt to suit the age & ability.

Make it a fun environment for children to learn in

I have over 15 years of coaching experience, I hold my UEFA A Licence & have a passion to keep on developing as a coach & passing that information on to my players & team of coaches.  It does come with a price.  My programme is not free.  I have invested thousands of pounds into my business & it is self funded through the parents & children that support me.  This makes me the big bad wolf.  Why?  I can't access any funding.  I am a hated figure by many at the Irish Football Association, Sport NI, Council's & many individuals.

People reading this outside Northern Ireland will not understand.  If you're not that experienced & have a lack of knowledge, little equipment & poor training methods then the powers that be love you.  The secret is to not be fully qualified & plan poor sessions.  So if you turn up late with little equipment, have a bottle of water for your first aid kit & have kids stand in long lines & operate crap training you are in.  If you say you are doing it voluntary & then use the magic words in Northern Ireland which is, 'cross-community', bloody hell you have won the lottery!   You get loads of funding & support.  You also get reduced pitch fees.

If the powers that be concentrated as much on the poor training methods as they did on child protection we wouldn't have anything to worry about.  Don't get me wrong child protection is important but why then ignore the poor standards of coaching?  Although child protection does get ignored after a course & background check come back complete & successful...another box ticked but why so many individuals then get away with shouting, screaming & swearing on the touch line go unchallenged?  This is child abuse but we'll cover that another time...that's a blog piece on its own!

But try to operate a programme like mine & you are the anti Christ of youth football.  I mean charge for good football coaching?  You can't do that when everyone else is giving up their time to do it voluntary.


Don't get me wrong, there is a place for volunteers in football but it isn't the head coach of a youth team.  Oh, & before everyone jumps on the bandwagon of saying that it wasn't for these volunteer coaches so many kids wouldn't get playing football...listen it depends what you actually want.  I want my child to play golf & the piano.  Do I want to send him to someone who is not qualified.  Let me make it simpler.  Here is what would happen if I sent my child to a parent that isn't qualified to teach him how to play the piano like in football;

Does your child stand in a long line waiting a turn?

  • There is no music books so he can't read music
  • He goes for a warm up by running around the piano - he's not allowed to play it!
  • He stands in a line for ages while watching everyone else get to play one note...after waiting in a line for 2 minutes, or longer, he gets to play one note then goes to the back of the line again.
  • The piano teacher wants to show off so starts playing not allowing any child to get near child goes to play a lovely chord so the teacher quickly closes the lid of the piano.
  • The child is hurt & needs first aid treatment so the teacher provides a bottle of water.
  • When the child tries a new chord or uses the peddle the teacher screams at him & tells him to play it safe...just use one hand & don't try anything fancy.
  • This same teacher gets frustrated when his student can't perform in Carnegie Hall on his own...he simply looks at him, always, for guidance as he can't play on his own with freedom, creativity & confidence.
  • The unqualified parents son gets to play on the piano longer than your son.
  • Due to basic techniques not being taught the child can't perform to the expected level.  The teacher will not except responsibility & instead looks at replacing him through his poor teaching methods with another student taught properly by another teacher.

Poor Coaching Methods

Okay so I am I'm going over the top but honestly I have seen such poor methods & yet little seems to being done to improve.  The unqualified coach who turns up with their initials emblazoned across their top & 'COACH' written on their back then shout Premier League instructions to their 5 year old players.  I've heard it all before;

  • Pick it up
  • Switch on
  • Play in the hole
  • Switch
  • Double up
  • Squeeze

Something which I created as Academy Director at Irish Premier League side, Lisburn Distillery, has turned into a monster.  When I brought talented children into the club at the age of 6 they had already 2 years good practice in my Toddler & Mini Soccer programme.  We continued their education concentrating on the technical side of their game, plenty of 1 v 1's & small sided games.  This was all done in-house & really developed their games.  What other clubs have done by taking my successful blue print have created a monster.  Gone is the age appropriate training & in comes the 5, 6 & 7 aside 'mini leagues'.  The competitiveness comes out of everyone & the development in the kids is forgot about.

It is clear to me that things will not improve short term so who needs to take the stance?  Parents!  Don't rush getting your kid into a competitive club.  Let them develop & enjoy their football.  Let them learn the game away from the pressures of uneducated coaches & don't fall into the trap of shouting parents screaming about their 5 year old who is going to be the next big thing.

I've seen it all before.  The potential in children can be lost along with their enthusiasm by idiot coaches & parents.  Support your child but in the right way.  Let them play.  It's a common sight seeing parents & grandparents watching their young children take their first steps in football.  But over the years less parents watch their child as they get older because that Premiership dream gets further away for the parent.

In Northern Ireland we are light years behind any other nation.  Clubs wonder why talented kids they send over to England often come back.  Let's hazard a guess of a combination of lack of training, crap training & poor youth development planning is maybe a factor.  Add in the other factor of just playing a game...especially when it's on a massive pitch & kids hardly touch the ball & that may give you an answer.  Kids in England train minimum 3 times a week aged 9-13 & when they start to hit 14 they can be in up to 4 & 5 days per week.  In Northern Ireland we can't train more than once a week or you know why?  Well the best excuses I often here is; we'll burn them out & then the old funding issues.  Football is a business nowadays & until Northern Ireland & the Irish League wake up to this I really do think it will be RIP Irish League & Northern Ireland football.

2 Responses to “RIP Mini Soccer”

  1. Mick Duffy says:

    Hi Tim, I like your note here. It makes a good read and makes sense. I agree with all this stuff. I know all Parents probably want their child to be the best, I am guilty myself of that. Kids do need good coaching and natural ability needs to be nurtured in kids. I never played myself but Son is very good with his feet and practices and plays pretty much 5 days a week. We all as Parents need to let the kids play and cheer instead of shout at them, it is no good for Manager Parent or Child.
    I agree with your Piano statement. My Daughter plays and works her grades. I say to my Son that it is the same for soccer, you need to keep working on things that are in the way to get to the next level. I don’t have loads of money but get him the tools and things he needs to bring him on. He is learning really well now to work on things each day to better himself and loves the game and is getting use to all the challenges as he is young and small for his age but always a target for the opposing Teams. Barca have registered some interest before Christmas but we are still waiting to hear more. On average he gets about 3 hours of soccer in each day. This would include training with Cherry Orchard twice to three times a week, just joined Brazilian soccer and does this twice a week, he plays a lot of natural skills. When he is home, he plays street soccer and sets up poles out the back and free kick dummies he got of Santa. He loves freestyle and is pretty nifty for his age. He strength trains too and eats very well.
    I try to do the best I can as I know he is up against a lot of bad politics in the soccer world!
    I look forward to reading more of your articles.

  2. Coach Tim says:

    Hi Mick, thanks for stopping by & commenting. Had a quick look at some of the little videos, your son is a talent. Refreshing this day & age that he practices so much with the ball!

    You’ll have to come up to Belfast some time. We offer weekly elite sessions at weekend. Have 2 lads that travel in from Newry…we’ll have to get you up every Sunday!


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