This week former Rep of Ireland international Damien Duff came out with some very controversial remarks in the Irish press. Duff is currently working with Dublin based club Shamrock Rovers U15's. Duff and the staff at Shamrock Rovers by all accounts are doing some fantastic work at the club. Keepitonthedeck.com finds this easy to believe having witnessed those lads in action last season. The video below features highlights of last season's Rovers under 15's in action against Biggleswade Town, a game Duff and co were present at.
That game ended 7-1 in favour of Biggleswade Town, you're probably thinking well what's so impressive about that?. The answer to the aforementioned question is the approach taken by Rovers and their staff to the game. That day Rovers had a clear identity and approach they wanted to implement in the game, the kids were encouraged to stick to the approach and despite errors or things not going so well, never once was finger of blame pointed for trying to play, the focus of the decision making was primerially on the intent firstly, execution was overlooked so long as the kid had made the correct decision. Filming the game in the gantry that day gave a brilliant insight into Damien Duff as a coach. Duff could be heard encouraging the kids to try things, to play. Duff of course was and clearly still is a winner, the occasional sigh of frustration could be heard if he had seen a phase of play that led to an error, the key thing to note though was how he dealt with that. Duff occasionally could be heard posing a question to the kids, things along the lines of "what could we have done there a bit different?".......the young Rovers kid would answer and you were left thinking 'The kid is educated and had a clear picture in his head, it was only technique that led to the mistake, not the approach'. Coming away from that day the overriding feeling was 'those kids are in good hands at Rovers because those are coaches who will look beyond the glory of today by taking the so called risks necessary to develop technical, intelligent footballers for the future.
Some very interesting comments surfaced from Damien Duff in the Irish press this week. Duff described one of his most difficult tasks since taking on his coaching role with Rovers under 15's as having to deal with pushy parents, speaking about his role to the Irish Independent newspaper he said “I’ve really loved it and it’s given me something to focus on. There’s lot of work involved from setting up training sessions to dealing with pain-in-the-arse parents....A few of the parents have tried getting involved – saying ‘my little Johnny is this or that’ – but I just tell them to piss off. It doesn’t help the kids".
Duff and the rest of the staff at Shamrock Rovers have also introduced morning sessions to an underage group for the first time in Ireland. “Our best three sessions of the year have been the 6.30am ones. It’s the first time anyone has done it in this country but none of the players want to miss out so it has snowballed. Some cavemen in Ireland are giving me stick for getting them out of bed but it’s the best time to learn. I picked it up from my time in Melbourne. They are early risers in Australia.” Keepitonthedeck.com firstly finds it amazing that parents are interfering with coaches of the calibre of Duff and co, even more so given it is plainly obvious their focus is very much so development before all else. Surely within that environment and seeing ex international footballers so dedicated to their role that can be nothing but positive for both parents and kids.
The need for more contact hours at underage level is clear and it would seem parents and also the children need to take more responsibility in understanding the blame does not always originate from the set up, did it ever occur that if little Johnny is not in the side that little Johnny may not be putting in the work required to be there, turning up is one thing, turning up with purpose is another. Duff was part of a study visit to PSV recently “I was always told how shit I was or I needed to do something better. We’re playing catch-up with the rest of Europe. I was at PSV a couple of weeks ago and their U-15s are doing six sessions a week and our clubs here do two or three, so I don’t know how you expect to compete with them at a senior level when you’re thousands of hours behind.”
The message from this piece given Duffs comments would be this. If standards are set very high normally the people not capable of maintaining them will disappear. Shamrock Rovers are clearly a club intent on developing future footballers that will make a career from the game. If your kid has that ambition and is within that kind of environment, look for the solutions rather than searching for blame. Solutions are a massive part of development after all. Learning to adapt and overcoming challenge are very much apart of the road to making a career from the game.