First Hand Experience
The following article would be meaningless unless it was coming from someone who has been within a set up to experience what is been spoken about. I understand that it would be senseless to tarnish everyone with the same brush so here is what I have learned from my time with both senior and schoolboy grassroots clubs over the past number of years from my own experiences. I worry for the game and it's future, I worry because the love of the game amongst players and coaches especially at senior grassroots level is fading compared to times gone by.
Many kids fail to attach to the game
Before we get into senior football let's begin at schoolboy level. It seems to me that the majority of kids I come across nowadays play simply for fun and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is there attitude and respect towards the people providing that fun. Let's face it, even the most laid back of coaches will try to educate their footballers in some way, but educating some kids of today appears a waste of time because the harsh truth is that some kids simply don't care and just want to have a laugh and fun, and there lays the problem....THEY DON'T CARE. I believe some clubs are guilty of not focusing on the single most important part of development in my opinion, that thing is developing a love for the game very early on. I believe that a willingness to learn will naturally be present in the things we love to do. Therefore it is absolutely a joke that FUN is not the single most important focus of development for the youngest age groups. If it's fun it's enjoyable, if it's enjoyable you grow to love it, if you love it you want to get better at it. Make it fun early or it will only be about fun late on.
Motivation has changed
Last week I watched a schoolboy game here in Ireland and a comment I heard from one of the children really made me stop and think. The kid was speaking about how he would become a footballer when he was older, how he would become rich and be able to buy a mansion, flash cars, there was even a mention of a fit bird (Irish slang for a nice girlfriend). The kids comments obviously harmless but not without some thought provoking truths. I believe even at professional academies nowadays some kids have a lavish lifestyle motivation to become a professional footballer, I see it as a weakness. In times gone by footballers played and wanted to become a footballer simply because they loved the game or the clubs they aspired to play for. I recently heard Rob Lee a former Newcastle United footballer echo similar sentiments on BT Sport. Lee's comments can be heard in the video below. When did the love of the game stop being about simply that.......a love of the game and not all the perks that came with playing it.
Worry for Senior Grassroots Football
Football at senior grassroots level is dying. Now that statement might seem extreme, but the truth is more and more clubs are folding nowadays, more and more players are giving up the game. Where there was once respect for people within clubs, nowadays it seems respect is being replaced by expect. Senior grassroots players of today from what I can see almost feel the clubs should be grateful to have them rather than the players being grateful to play for the club. Week after week the changing attitude of the modern senior grassroots footballer can be witnessed, some clubs will know stories of players who are no longer willing to put up nets, clean up after games, contribute money fairly. Those stories just a few of the problems of field. On field the senior grassroots scene is filled with delusional footballers who think they are better than what they are and in that delusional display ignorance to team mates and coaches. Concerts and holidays take preference over games, training has become a task rather than an escape, commitment is now considered an attribute rather than something that is expected. There is little sign of attachment from the players coming into the senior grassroots game and I believe it all points back to the way we are bringing kids through the ranks early on without focus on developing that love for the game.
Many will remember those days where countless hours were spent kicking football on the streets. Countless more hours spent watching and cheering on your club and dreaming to one day play for them. That buzz that once existed has been drowned out by distractions all around the modern footballer. Distractions in the form of computers, a younger dating scene and on and on and on, the list of distractions removing the hours where a love for the game was developed on those streets is endless. As I strolled down my old street on a jog Wednesday evening a football flew past my legs. I got the ball and noticed a small kid running up towards me. "Is that your football kiddo" I asked, the kid nodded and so I kicked the ball back to him. The kid took the ball and returned to a wall by the corner of the street kicking the ball back and fourth on his own, no distractions, no other people, just a kid trying to improve his skills, everybody wants to get better at the things we love to do. Hope in a worrying time.