@_GROI

1. 'Get Rid Of It!

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Brainwashing our young players into 'panic ridden' football

The biggest crime against British football, 'Get Rid Of It' sits at first place in our Hall of Shame. Every week we here it in various guises up and down the country; 'get rid' 'release it' 'clear it' 'put it out' 'if in doubt' 'hoof it' 'smash it' 'boot it' and the rest! In a recent under 9 match in Leicester the GROI team counted 64 instances of these words in a 40 minute match. If a young player participated in around 300 games from the age of 6 to 18 (allowing for longer match times as they get older) this would multiply out to over 25,000 instances! Enough to brainwash any adult let alone child into 'panic ridden' British football.

The British 'Get Rid' culture is the number 1 problem!

GROI believe that 'Get rid of it' is the number 1 problem in British football, ingrained into our culture over many years and brainwashed into young players from an early age. But hopefully in the name of our site you can see the irony; "Get Rid of It" as the problem, but also start of new hope; Can we 'get rid' of 'get rid of it' and all the other bad behaviours and habits that go with it? We're brave enough to try and change a culture, which is the real problem in British grass roots football.

A panic ridden, 'hot potato' approach

Think of it from the young players perspective; every time there is any percieved danger, a cloud of expectation falls over them to 'get rid' often with all the verbal accompaniments that go with it. Are coaches, parents and supporters still so blinkered by 'winning' that they are robbing decision making opportunities from children and damaging their development. Oh, and by the way, for any sceptics out there (let's get this in early); we DO believe in playing to win! You can read more about 'wiinning' here >

If this panic ridden, 'hot potato' approach could be replaced with a 'love' of the ball, along with the creativity, freedom, decision making and risk taking that goes with it what would happen? We're excited to find out and with your help, we can actually make it happen! See our Hall of Fame.

You can help us to change a culture!

If we can STOP saying, 'GET RID' we can START to change a culture!

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Count the GROIs! Could you count the 'GROIs' in one of your matches? We would love to know how many (remember, 'get rid', 'clear it', 'release it', 'boot it' etc etc all count!). If we can make these words 'taboo' we wil be starting to change a CULTURE!

GROI count >

2. Pass It! Are you restricting the development of your players?

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This sits nicely alongside 'Get Rid' at the top of our charts, again, literally brainwashing young players into panic ridden football without the responsibility of making decisions or the ability to 'do more' with the ball. The GROI team witnessed these words shouted 89 times in a recent U9 match in Leicester. That's on track for about 35,000 instances of brain washing by the time a young player is 18!

The scary fact is that 95% of a child's neural development (a bit like hard wired skills in the brain) is complete by the age of 10 (FA Youth Award Level 1). This means that if you are mainly encouraging children to 'PASS' at the expense of skills and decisions then you are restricting the neural development in their brain and hence the opportunity to ever reach their full potential. If you are involved with the development of players up to the age of 10 this surely must make you take notice!!!!

Now the GROI team DO love passing football as much as any other enthusiast but have us Brits misunderstood the passing game?... Well we have noticed how many coaches, parents and supporters are shouting 'pass' (or 'release' or 'down the line') almost as a reflex reaction to every situation. Take the example in the picture; should we be shouting pass? It looks like there is clear space ahead?

And oh how we feel sorry for those talented players who actually have the skills to stay on the ball and beat or trick a player; they will often be told to 'pass' even more! In some cases the abuse that these players can recieve from their own team-mates, coaches and supporters can verge on bullying; 'ball hogger', 'greedy' etc etc; you may be able to think of such a player. Before long these players can be so scared to use their skills that they don't - hence losing the potential talent that they had. When growing up were Messi and Ronaldo told to 'get rid' or 'pass' the ball at every opportunity? Do you think that their attempts to use a skill to stay on the ball or beat a player always worked?

GROI are passionate about developing more skillful and creative players that can think for themselves. Our team understand that the player who passes too much could need to work on their decision making as much as the dribbler who never passes. Our biggest fear is that coaches jump or completely miss stages in players development; moving onto passing well before ball mastery, dribbling, fakes, feints, turns and control are secure. If you force players to pass without looking at the changing picture of the game around them they will often pass to the other team, or off the pitch; trying to force passes that don't exist; treating the ball like a 'hot potato'. In addition, if players can't control the ball when they are passed to then loss of possession is also likely.

GROI consider that confidence on the ball leads to better passing and better pass completion. Good possession starts with the individual who needs to be able to 'love' the ball, is comfortable in possession and is able to decide when to 'share the love'. In fact, when you have players in your team that are capable of staying on the ball longer you can 'unlock' better passing opportunities, often attracting the opposition to the ball, in order to create good space elsewhere. When British coaches, parents and supporters become too obsessed with 'passing' it can play into the hands of opposing teams and become 'panic' football. Looks like Johann Cruyff agrees...

"I loved playing against England. They would always give us the ball back so quickly." Johann Cruyf

GROI tip > If you remember one thing about this article don't damage your young players brain development by restricting what they can do with the ball. Develop as many ball skill and decision making opportunities as you can (especially up to age 10/11) to give them the best platform to reach their potential. You can switch on the Barcelona 'Tiki-Taka' football at a later age if you choose!

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Count the 'PASS IT' / 'RELEASE IT' / 'DOWN THE LINE' comments. We would love to know how much this happens at your matches so please let us know! If people then start to realise that they are damaging player development and stop saying it we will be starting to change a CULTURE!

'PASS IT' count >

3. Remote Control Players

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This just has to have a high position in our Hall of Shame, with coaches, parents and supporters often all GUILTY of telling players what to do! 

Take this classic example from a recent under 8 game in Leicestershire;

As number 11 dribbled towards the oppostion penalty area, the coach (with his ego fully on show) repeatedly barked at his player,  ‘PASS TO OWEN’ ‘PASS TO OWEN’ ‘PASS TO OWEN’ only for number 11 to totally ignore him and dispatch a screecher into the top corner! As the coach sheepishly clapped, mumbling 'good goal' the GROI team reflected on a priceless moment. This is a great example that kids CAN make decisions for themselves and do not need to be 'remote controlled' from the touchline.

Remember that young players are not remote controlled - they have a mind of their own!

The FA RESPECT codes of conduct for spectators and parents clearly state, "do not confuse the players by telling them what do do". BUT is this happening?

 

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Coaching Cliches!

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'Play the way you're facing' 'easy ball' and the rest! We want to know who said these first? Because somehow, they seem to have caught on to an astonishing degree. Dare we say that pretty much anybody could stand on a touchline shouting out words like this and call themselves a coach? Here's some more...

Where's the midfield? (poor midfielders - if in doubt they always seem to get the blame!) Let the ball do the work! You're walking! There's no movement! Move! It's too quiet! Where's the chat! Talk to eachother!

The problem here is that these comments are all 'generic' - they don't really mean anything specific to young players. It's often just something for the coach to say. In fact, 'play the way you're facing' and 'easy ball' could translate as, 'you lot are no good and I don't trust you to do anything other than simple things'. Furthermore, don't be too surprised if really young players take your advice too literally; dancing on the spot ('move') or discussing match of the day ('talk to eachother').

Here's a couple of daft coaching comments that were heard recently at U8 and U9 games in Leicester; 'You're playing happy families' (to 7 and 8 year old boys) and 'Let it go, let it go' to a 9 year old goalkeeper. At this point me and my assistant could not 'hold back anymore' and burst into song with the the 'Frozen' classic!

See more pointless football words, phrases and cliches in our Forbidden Dictionary >

If we can start to make these kind of words taboo then we can start to change a culture! We might even be able to have a smile whilst realising...

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Pitch Invaders

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Be honest coaches; are you a pitch invader?

Occassionally? Or proper bad habit? We know that many coaches 'kick every ball' in the kids matches but it's time for some self disciplne...

We understand that football can be a passionate game but as a coach why not try standing still and watching the game? By watching we mean using proper observation skills. Have you ever heard the saying, 'you can't see the wood for the trees'?. Well good observation is a crucial coaching skill in itself. Try standing back, standing still and observing properly; you may find that you will 'see' much more. Better still, what are you looking for? You can't 'fix' everything all at once - they are children remember, at different stages in their learning journeys. Nigel Pearson at Leicester set a good example in observation skills during their impressive Championship winning season 2013 / 2014, prefering to sit in the stands and observe properly rather than barking out instructions from the touchline.

GROI tip > Try having a clear focus for the game, either for the team, individuals or both. This could be an extension of a training topic. Share the focus with players and supporters. Get them observing and maybe recording too. Review objectives with your players at half time, full time and prior to games. Now they are thinking more, learning more and playing more.

How often have you seen pitch invaders? Are YOU a pitch invader and need help?


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Standing in Lines

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It's official - standing in lines is OUT!

At GROI we thought that most coaches would know by now that standing in lines it out of fashion! BUT we're still seeing it all over the place. Just look at the expression on the faces in the background to see why you should bin this approach wherever possible. How many goes / touches of the ball are your players getting in training / warm ups?

As a quick GROI tip, give them a ball each then progress up from 1v1 to small sides games. More touches, more practice, more thinking, more learning, more playing! 

How much standing in lines do you see?


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Subbuteo Defending

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GROI want to know who teaches coaches to use subbuteo or table football style defending tactics! This crime to British football is easily spotted with two defenders sat on the edge of the penalty area (often one on each corner)  waiting to kick the ball away whenever it comes in their direction. To compound this football tragedy, supporters will usually applaud the defenders loudly every time the ball is hoofed up the field or off the pitch...

Are the players in the picture improving their footballing skills? Please stop robbing our young players of proper football skills and decision making opportunities - they can do so much more!

PS. The opposite tactic to subbuteo defending would be subbuteo attacking, clearly recognisable when 1 or 2 players hang around the opposition penalty area waiting for the big hoof up the field. Poor old midfielders we say!

Seen this Hall of Shamer at your club, or on your travels?


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Spread Out

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"Spread out" - sounds familiar? GROI here it all the time at kids football matches - But is there any point?

When children are very young they tend to live their own life in their own world. It's perfectly natural for them to concentrate on the ball at an early age and in fact it is GOOD for their development. The fact is that their brains are not yet developed enough to percieve their surroundings in the way that adults and older children do. This will change as they grow older but the exact age will vary from one child to another (remember some children in the same team are almost a year different in age also).

Shouting 'spread out' can damage players confidence and self esteem

So you can carry on shouting 'spread out' until the cows come home but it won't make any difference until they reach the age of 6, 7, 8,  depending upon the child. In fact by continuing to shout 'spread out' you are starting to damage their confidence and self esteem by negatively re-inforcing that they are doing something wrong.

GROI tip > Teach them a 'love' of the ball from a very young age using different surfaces of the foot and BOTH feet. Play games that require 1 ball each or keep ball, 1v1.


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Winning and League Tables

 

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Let's be clear; GROI believe in playing to win and that 'winning' does matter but we question how well the British culture enables us to deal with the whole winning and losing thing!. It seems like we are so obsessed with winning that we lose - and so scared of losing that we lose! We just can't seem to get it right. Furthermore, our inability to deal with the pressure of winning and the fear of losing can lead to seriously bad behaviour and even violence. But in it's every day form it means that winning obsessed coaches, parents and supporters are often shouting at young players to 'get rid', 'pass it', 'get stuck in' and the rest, rather than developing them into true winners.

The League Tables Debate

GROI appreciate the efforts from the FA and local leagues to try and improve the British grass roots game but can't help but thinking that they are RUNNING AWAY from the REAL problem AND creating new ones. Things appear to be so bad in grass roots football that local leagues are scared to publish league tables. Is this a sticking plaster over a gaping wound? Are leagues running scared and don't know what else to do? GROI would rather 'grasp the nettle' and tackle the real problem head on (the British culture).

Things appear to be so bad that league tables are continuing to be taken away; firstly removed for the U7, U8 and U9 age groups and now dissappearing for U10s and U11s. Now we fully understand why; it's a fact that coach and supporter behaviour is often worse when league tables are involved. But should we also consider the NEW problem we could be creating; that winning 'doesn't matter'? Those well intentioned words can create an opposite problem; kids that don't care or don't try their hardest.

Would the Germans tell their children 'it doesn't matter?'. GROI believe that to develop better players winning has to matter but it is how we deal with (and learn from) losing that is key. This is a BIG debate and you will probably have your view but be assured; GROI is here for the kids and their DEVELOPMENT. We view football through their eyes and we ask them what they think. Do they want league tables? YES! Do league tables exist in Spain at U7? YES! Do kids play to win? YES! Can we help them to learn from losing? YES! We would love to bring back league tables for the young players that want them but we just might need to change our culture in order to do this.

Rather than blame the referee, the weather, the pitch, the team selection, formation, the size of the oppostion or any number of others factors it would be refreshing to look at what WE could do to improve and even appreciate and learn from what the other team might have done well.

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Get Stuck In

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Have you got any 'get stuck in' coaches, parents or supporters? GROI agree that in the game of football you need to be physically and mentally tough but is there really the need for the thousands of  'get stuck in' comments heard up and down the country every weekend. If young players take this approach too literally at the expense of their skill development then it's really not good for them or the game. There is much more to it than 'get stuck in'. Coaches, parents and supporters should also be very mindful at the different rates and timiings of both physical and mental development in young players.

GROI tip > Small players - Rather than constantly going on at smaller players to toughen up and get stuck in (which may damage their self esteem) focus on their strengths which may well be speed, touch, skills, awareness and movement. They will grow in their own time!


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Cash For Goals

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At GROI we're wary of anything that messes around with kids decision making. For example; it's 1-1, last minute and Jonny has the ball at his feet, 20 yards from goal, acute angle, defender approaching. Does he pass to Ben who's wide open for a probable goal or take the shot for the chance of a fiver?


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Under Pressure

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Pre-match pressure. Do those pre-match pep talks really work? Big game today - make sure you get stuck, if we win we go top etc. Most kids naturally play to win so let them get on with it for themselves without feeling like they need to live up to your expectations. Add too much pressure and you will emotionally hijack their brain which damages their decision making capabilities and increases the likelihood of mistakes.

GROI tip > On the way to games talk about anything other; match of the day, the weather, X-Factor, what's for dinner, last nights TV all will do! Players will normally play better when they are relaxed and confident, not scared of losing!


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Fickle Fans (and coaches)

 

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Fickle fans and coaches can be best explained with examples:

1a. Defender attempts a skill to dribble out of defence when under pressure and loses ball - 'Not there!'

1b. Defender attempts a skill to dribble out of defence when under pressure and is successful - 'Great play!'

2a. Attacker dribbles past two players successfully then gets tackled by the third - 'Release it earlier!'

2b. Attacker dribbles past three players successfully and slots a cool finish into the bottom corner - 'Great skills - great goal!'

Now you can't actually say what the correct decison was in each of the above scenarios without seeing the full picture at the time but our observations show that the comments associated with 1a and 2a, above mean that we rarely see the successes of 1b and 2b!


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TV Expectations

 

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Having witnessed hundreds of youth games over the last few years it dawned on the GROI team that coaches and supporters often think of our young players as adults. Exposed to watching top level football on SKY Sports and Match of the Day are we expecting the same play from our youngsters as we see on the TV?

With expectations like that it's no wonder that these poor young players of tomorrow are subjected to criticism from every angle; trying to fix any number of things all at once! Furthermore, it appears that we're all in a hurry to label players into a position; judging them as if they are an adult; big and strong = centre back, fast and skilful = winger etc etc.

GROI fact > Youth football does not look the same as on TV. Children develop at different rates and you are not looking at the finished player. Give them a chance!

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