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Should young player's have the chance to play in a match no matter what their ability | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Should young player's have the chance to play in a match no matter what their ability

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  • pippaglen

    I must say that over the last few 12 months I have seen some great little football players with some excellent all-around

    abilities coming through which actually makes a change from young people not being able to skip, hop, jump and not having their ABC's .  I have managed to produce a nice little under 7s team with some great players and would like to see them all play in a match regardless of their ability. Last weekend I found myself in a position where without my knowledge the committee and other coaches had decided that the under 7s team have been picked and that other children will have to wait until they are good enough to play.  This is so frustrating for me as these players are 5 - 6 years old's and are still learning the game and have much more to learn and by being in a match I feel this will help with their development and a match situation.  I advised the parent helper who is the team manager that I feel it would be fair if all the children had a chance of playing in a game regardless of their ability and that they should be rotated into the team even if they only played one game per month. I was told the team had been picked and it was being left like this. I'm unsure of being the teams' coach if I can override that decision. I'm annoyed at the fact they have made the decision and excluding other players, I'm aware the FA have a being inclusive policy on the fa level 1 course about not being inclusive and about not just picking players because they are better.  Why is it others think they know best, I'm all about being inclusive and hate to see others being left out and that everyone gets a chance at play or compete for no matter what sports it is. I feel I'm letting parents and players down because the decision has been made without considering my thoughts or opinion. 

    How inclusive are you in your session?

    If you have players that aren't fantastic would you still allow them to play in a match?

    Would you want to be included as there coach in the decision making of the team?


  • Clenchiecoach

    So much has been written about this subject when the answer is simple.

    Of course every kid should get an equal chance to play!

    Anything else is just egotistical or selfish. The game belongs to everybody, not just the 'best' at that moment in time.

    It shouldn't be an issue for the FA. For me, it's about basic simple principles. Would you take ten kids to the Zoo and only let nine see the animals?

    How is anybody supposed to get better at anything without the chance to practice.? Matches should just be an extension of the playground. A place to explore, enjoy and develop. Individually and collectively 

    Every Child Counts!!

  • pippaglen

    Hi Rich

    Thank you for your feedback, I have only been a qualified football coach for 6 months and still new to it however in the 10 years I have been coaching other sports if feel my values have stayed the same and that as you quoted EVERY CHILD COUNTS and to be INCLUSIVE!! I coach disability athletics and each week I have able-bodied athletes and disability athletes working together as  I plan sessions accordingly and so all can participate in the same exercise whilst making adjustments. I'm a little annoyed at the fact that this is now out of my hands and I have had no input into the team they have picked and at the moment are considering leaving as this isn't what I went into coaching for, Its about what the players and athletes needs are or maybe I'm incorrect. 

  • Marksmith1974

    Hi Emma, 

    I agree totally with your approach that every child counts and needs to play as much as possible. Every child developes at different speeds so we need to keep encouraging every child. I have one piece of advice is to surround yourself with like minded people who share your values for player development. 

    Good Luck 


  • pippaglen


    Thank you for your comment, I agree with your statement. When I offered to help the club over 18 months ago the coaches were great and said they are all for the children, now things seem to have changed unsure why but now it seems it all for having a good under 7s team and only picking the ones they feel are good enough to play. I didn't get into football for this for me its all about the young 5 and 6-year-olds having fun, enjoying football and their training sessions, why put them under pressure at this age to perform at such a high standard. 2 weeks ago I had a couple of new players I don't quite know them enough yet but because one of the coaches saw him play a game at the end he was put straight on  the Sunday match team, for me, this is favoritism and not even giving other players a chance to  take part in a match. Extremely frustrating as I feel my hands are tied only being a level 1 coach and not much experience with football coaching. 

  • Marksmith1974

    Hi Emma

    I love your values Emma regarding the players. I personally wont be focusing on competition until my group are heading for u 14 level all about developing the skills.

    Have you tried to discuss your thoughts with the other coaches? 

    Have you an opportunity to be the head coach of a team?

    My belief is that a qualification doesn't mean you will be a good coach the traits and values you show make the difference.

    Is there a coaching policy in your club regarding each team what the focus and priorities should be?


  • kraichura

    Hi Emma,

    Thanks for posting your issue here. As Rich says, it feels odd that this subject keeps coming up really, especially at the kinds of ages you are working with! It's quite saddening really and maybe a bit indicative of what goes on in football more-so than other sports.

    I am fortunate to work in hockey, where league organisers and other clubs' junior organisers understand the purpose of junior fixtures. Yes there are one or two miscreants, often older generation parents or coaches, but in general we are in a good place.

    It depends how you want to go about this. If you're not the lead coach for the age group then there isn't a huge deal you can do within your current hierarchy and age group. If you are, then I think you have more power and need to find a way to overrule the idiots and make the parents aware of this. However, fundamentally it comes down to your club's ethos - if they want to win every game they play at every age group (God knows why!), then I feel like you (and the kids!) will be better off elsewhere in the long run.

    Good luck in whatever you decide to do!

  • Coach_Browning

    Based on what you say, if my lad was in your club I would pull him out and go elsewhere. Simple

    We are talking U7s here. We are not talking Champions League with millions of £ on the line. What you describe here is completely and utterly wrong. 

    The ability of the player in no way should affect the amount of game time that he/she has at this level. Everyone gets on. Everyone plays. All the spectators encourage the players (both sides I might add). Everyone has a smile on their face. No-one cares about the score and we all go for an ice cream afterwards while telling them how proud we were to watch them. 

    there are words I would like to write here but I would like to remain on this forum so....!!!

    I just can not believe the actions of that committee and the coaches. Again. This is U7s. Who cares what the score is? If they are genuinely thinking about playing players in order to win a game at U7 at the expense of others then they need to take a long hard look at themselves. 

    I would love to hear their justification of this policy. 

  • pippaglen

    Hi Mark

    Thank you for your feedback, I have discussed with the parent helper who is the team manager for football matches, I advised him that all players need to have a turn at being in the football team and having play time, I was then advised that there wasn't any room left  on the team and no more than 10 players could join on the kickstart program. without my knowledge again I was advised that the parent helper was having the Sunday team 30 mins before my session started so they could practice their skills and needed to practice where they needed to be on the field,  I was extremely annoyed so I emailed the chairman of the club as it was his idea the 30mins extra training was happening, I explained I was unhappy at the fact that I wasn't involved and that I felt another 30 mins added on to my 1 hr training session was far too much for this age and that sessions needed to be kept fun and engaging. I then found out that the parent helper was also keeping the Sunday team behind another 15 mins after my session for more practice, that 1 hr 45 mins training which I find ridiculous for that age group.  I advised that if I wasn't kept in the loop I would leave the club as I didn't agree with what is happening.  I wouldn't mind if another coach coaches the under 7s on a different day as I work in the evenings and spreads the training out but definitely not 1 hr and 45 mins in the same session.  The chairman came to me last weekend to advise me of what was going off, I advised that I really don't agree with an extra 45mins on top of training, too much information for some children can be overwhelming. 

    I attended a committee meeting this week so I could ask a few questions to find out that you can place as many players as you wish on the kickstart and that you can change players each week if you wish. but you can on have 8 players at the game itself. I then found out that the reason for the extra training was because our under 7s had lost 3 matches and the players one, in particular, was extremely upset because they didn't win and has not returned to training since, as I said to the parent helper, you can not expect children to win all the time and that its important they play games for experience and training.  Being the coach I am I'm finding this very difficult to handle as I love to see children having fun and not being put through high volumes of training for the purpose of a win. 

  • pippaglen

    Hi Simon, thank you for your reply

    I'm extremely frustrated and annoyed at the fact nobody has wanted anything to do with the under 7s in 18 months but as soon as we put the players into a Sunday league everyone wants a piece of the pie and glory.  These children have only just come out of preschool and started full-time school never mind about pushing them to constantly win games.  I'm frustrated because I only became a football coach in May this year and still feel a little new to it all I am however an athletics coach of 10 years and work with athletes of all ages this includes developing athletes which I'm currently doing.  My gut feeling keeps telling me to leave the club but my heart is on my sleeve the children's health and mental development and having fun are important to me. I think I'm going to have to have a meeting with the committee again to air my views and concerns for the player's health and mental well being.    

    I did speak to a parent after the session last week and asked what they thought of the extra 45 mins, the parent thought that is was great and that their child would train forever. My heart sank as did all my coaching values.

  • pippaglen


    I am the head coach for that age group which is frustrating for me as people seem to keep making decisions without my say so, I have spoken to the chairman and air my views about this and also advised that I'm happy to leave the club if they didn't feel I was going a good enough job as a coach, bearing in mind I have been coaching this age group now for 18 months without help but as soon as they are put into a Sunday league everyone is now interested in this age group. I'm an independent coach of athletics and have been for 10 years I'm currently coaching para-athletics and able-bodied athletes twice a week, I plan monthly for these athletes and give them individual training plans, I helped this football club out as they had no coach for this age group so I thought I would give it a go, I have managed to coach them so far up until the beginning of September when all has changed and now the players are in a Sunday Match the word WIN WIN WIN ( yes we would all like to win but there is always going to be someone better than your team or am I wrong. 

  • Marksmith1974

    Hi Emma,

    Firstly can I say well done to you for going to the parent helper and the chairman of the club to speak about your concerns about what's happening with the group. There is couple of questions I have from your reply. You mentioned about the players training 30 mins before actual training starts? How is training/matches communicated to parents (do you use what's app or something similar) and who is in charge of the making the communications to the team? Did the chairperson listen to your concerns at all.

    You mentioned you are the head coach do you not make the training plan for the team or why does the parent helper think they make the decisions about the team without discussing it with you.

    Also you are right 1 hr is plenty of time for training also you don't want to train robots you want the kids to express themselves play with freedom have fun and enjoy what they do otherwise there will be more kids like the one that dropped out because they feel under pressure to win every game. It has to be about developing the player 1st and then the players will form the teams in later years.

    We play blitz matches we don't keep any score in any matches instead we focus on praising good skills, improvements made from training or last game, give something small to focus on during the game. Also something else we will be introducing is talking in small groups about words like failure, team, winning, learning etc it will be a player led discussion facilitated by the coach to talk about these topics just for about 5 mins during the session.

    All the stuff you talk about is in our club too in older age groups and I can't understand it but along with the coaching officer we are changing the mindset bit by bit.

    How do the parents of the players feel about whats going on?

    What I do know Emma is I would love to have a coach like you involved with our team it makes such a difference to have a player centered coach with the younger players.


  • pippaglen

    Hi Mark!

    Thank you for your feedback!

    Communication between parents is on the club website and the club facebook page which has a messenger on it, not all parents have facebook or messenger so I will text them with any relevant information and also I write a small newsletter with information with what's going off.  Funny you should ask without my knowledge a whats app parents group was created by the parent helper ( match manager)  without my knowledge,  it was only because a parent told me about the 30 min training before my session and the new whats app group that I found out. Again I asked both the chairman and parent helper about the group and why I wasn't part of the group and why on earth am I being left out of the loop of what is going off. I find this really odd that nothing is being discussed with myself as apparently, they talk about what a good coach I am and they use my coaching ideas for there own session.  When I advised them that I thought training the under 7s training for 1 hr 45hrs was too long the session is still going ahead and sadly my opinion doesn't matter. 

    Like most coaches I take my time planning training session not just for football but also for athletics,  sitting at the computer writing training plans in my own voluntary time.  I have asked for feedback as regards to the match days as I can't always make the games due to my other athletes in athletics competing every other weekend. I think he feels because he attends the matches and is the match manager he can make the decisions which I suppose if he's there and I'm not, then maybe he is right? I'm happy to take advice, new ideas and incorporate into the team training plans. 

    1 of the parents is happy to have their child train for 1hr 45 mins, they advised me that their child will play all day, I advised the parent that it really isn't good for their child's mental health and that a child will only take in so much information before it becomes too much and then they forget, not forgetting the physical impact it has on his body and health, again I was laughed at and the parent walked away, his wife agreed with myself.  

    Maybe in one of the first comments made it's probably all my fault but then I think back when I first took the team on I was coaching multi-skills games because I knew nothing about football but the multi-skills games worked nobody was bothered about the younger players they had never played a match in the 18 months I have been coaching them so all has been fine,  the club have only just placed the players into a Sunday league and have never played against other club players up until now were they have played for the past 3 weeks, this wasn't planned and was rushed through in the middle of September so it's all new to myself and the player's. 

    Tell me should I now be training them for match days?  coaching all the players the football rules at this age? the positions they should be in on pitch? or just continue with what I'm coaching. Which are fun games with football skills within the game's

    So frustrated as to what I should be doing, what am I doing wrong? 

    I have spoken to my partner about this and he advised me that because it's an all-male club and I don't go drinking with them then maybe this is why I'm not respected. 

  • Marksmith1974

    Hi Emma,

    I hope you are ok and it's only natural to feel frustrated about the situation as you care about the welfare of your team and the situation you find you and them in after 18 months of coaching them and somebody trying to take the plaudits for your great work, you are doing nothing wrong, but trying to do everything right by the kids so stick to your principles.

    I think there is something in what your partner says and that many of those decisions you are talking about are made in the pub amongst those you mention in your absence. How many players to you have? I also feel that the parent helper is only interested in winning for himself to boost his ego or profile but at the expense of the players development and well being and trying to take the credit at the matches for all your coaching work with the group.

    As regards training we spend 45 minutes on games based skill development/fun activities and then the last 15 minutes (you can build in match play) we play games max 8v8 down to 1v1 depending on how many coaches is available its all about trying to get all players as many touches of the ball throughout the session as possible we also try not to give too much instruction rather to allow the players play with freedom/feel and make decisions for themselves and encourage them not to be afraid of making mistakes.

    The parent of the child who is happy to allow him play all day, unfortunately they are apart of all sports but that child will probably burn out or quit because of the expectations placed on them by the parent.

    All this stuff can be a distraction for you and the kids and taking away from the great work you do, maybe try talk to the parent helper again maybe if you can have a coffee to see if you can find common ground that works for you both and for the kids which are the priority.


  • pippaglen


    Depending on the time of year I have had from 2 to 18 players, I lost a few this years due to becoming ill and having to have an emergency operation, there wasn't anyone to cover for the under 7s so I lost many of my players, I have broken my hand and again have struggled to get another coach to cover.  

    I was going to offer to meet the parent helper as I really don't want to lose the help I have, it's not very often you get parents to offer to help. 

    I see lots of young athletes in athletics that burn out pretty early due to being over-trained, lucky for my athletes that take part in athletics I don't over-train and yet they still manage to win their competitions. They enjoy there training and enjoy taking part in competitions too.

    I think another meeting is required with the chairman and parent helper, I really don't want to leave but I really feel I might be out of my depth with this club and maybe they just don't need a female coach in their club. Sad I know. 

  • philip.ratcliffe

    I've been coaching rugby (in Italy) for nearly 14 years now and find it hard to believe that we're talking about U7s here.

    I coached U7s to U12s for several years; the Union rules in Italy regarding mini rugby OBLIGE the coaches to rotate all the kids. Even without such guidance, it would never have entered my head to do any different. To be precise, our games are tournament based and so I would find out beforehand how many matches we would be playing, how many kids were available and then work out a set of formations that would be as well balanced as possible and give everyone more or less the same playing time. Nobody, but nobody ever complained.

    I've actually coached all age groups up to adults and have always adopted essentially the same guiding principles - in a team sport, inclusion is fundamental, without it there is no team.

    I might add that here, in rugby at least, nobody except the coach has a say in running the teams and all our coaching courses stress the importance of inclusion and of playing down the win/lose side of matches.

    Any parent (or indeed club official) who believes that sports and particularly teams sports for kids are all about winning needs some serious lessons on child development and is only doing damage to all of the kids they are in contact with, including any possible future superstars.

    My own son came up through such a system, going on to play for the Italian national U18 side - I like to think that precisely the selfless approach and appreciation of the importance of inclusion instilled at an early age was what allowed him to develop as a player both in vision and in the spirit of collaboration.

  • pippaglen

    Hi Philip

    Thank you for your comment, over the last few weeks I have really struggled with this, yes I have spoken to the chairman regarding this and was advised that the players will eventually move up to the under 8s group, for me even as under 8s this age group players should still be having fun training sessions.  They have since decided to create an under 7s training session on a different day to my Saturday session which is just for the under 7s Sunday match team so again other players from the Saturday session will be excluded and only the players that have been picked for the under 7s Sunday match team will be training in this training session. A parent helper was asked without my knowledge to become team manager for the Sunday league, again I had no input as a coach.     

    I have spent 10 years coaching athletics 9 to 11-year-old's, this age group they are coached their abc's, athletes get to compete against others their own age and against others slightly better than themselves and nobody is left out no matter what their ability, I was advised that football coaching is a little different to athletics coaching. I actually don't agree with this statement apart from the fact that it's a different sport and team sport. However the principles of ABCs , having fun, children enjoying sessions and being included in all matches should be more important than winning at this age group. 

    Having had a few weeks to think about the club I have since decided to have a break from the club and unsure if I will return, my last session was last Saturday, I was asked to rethink my decision, after 18 months of coaching the under 7s I feel for this club maybe I'm just not the right coach for them. Very sad decision and the loss of a dedicated coach. I just hope someone will take me on for having a different way of coaching and that my beliefs are about letting athletes develop naturally with the guidance of a coach to help improve development, allow athletes to develop their fundamental movement skills, have fun and enjoy being with other athletes. 

  • philip.ratcliffe

    "... even as under 8s ...", even as under 18runs.

    Maybe this is a soccer v rugby thing (hopefully not) or that you've fallen in with a club that's run in a "win at all costs" framework. Either way, given your obvious sensitivity to this all-important aspect of coaching, maybe you need to assess carefully who you want to work for,  I'd guess that the problem lies with the club, but maybe you have to take a step back from everything and try to see where the problem lies.

    Good luck anyway, all I can say is that your vision is in line with many others who, from my experience are also among the most successful. Having said that, as a coach you'll always be on your own.  It's a tough life!

  • bencstorey

    Hi Emma,

    I have been reading this post with interest. I am a coach at a junior triathlon club. Until last week I was joint-head coach with another individual who was very keen that we send some of our poorer swimmers away as our sessions were over subscribed and this would make rooms for some of the better swimmer.

    Everyone has the same opportunity to train but I felt by excluding those swimmers we weren't being fair. They could all swim the race distance required by British Triathlon however, the standard he was wanting to apply was higher. All the other coaches without question felt my approach was correct and his was not in keeping with a fair, inclusive and 'sport for all' philosophy or with Brit Tri's ethical coaching guidelines.

    In addition he has a very poor communication approach, if he is questioned or challenged he would become very aggressive and bullying. He doesn't respect the opinions of any other coaches even those with more experience and higher qualifications than himself. It got to the stage where I could no longer work with him.

    Unfortunately the committee also included his wife, which made this very difficult to address. In the end, we had to dissolve the position and temporarily appoint someone else. Fortunately, all the other coaches share my inclusive beliefs so this hopefully should be the end of the matter. But it greatly saddens me, that there are coaches out there who are so blind the damage they can do to an 8 year old by telling them they're not good enough.

    Sport for all.


  • pippaglen

    Hi Ben sorry for taking so long to respond, I have been extremely busy with work. 

    It makes my blood boil to think that there are still coaches out there that feel they are above everyone no matter what. I have worked with many coaches that don't care about the athlete's, and plan only according to what they want and not what is best for the athlete's. They don't communicate with athletes or parents, this day and age this shouldn't be happening. Surely we have more experience and knowledgeable coaches coming through to help shift the negative coaching. I may be wrong.   I have spent the past few weeks trying to sort one of my athlete out, he attends my sessions once a week however due to the traveling and time he's unable to attend other sessions so he has joined a local club I don't mind this however what I do mind is when a coaches tells the athlete he needs to stop coming to my sessions as I want get him anywhere. This made me furious as the athlete has been training with me from the beginning and become an amazing athlete, taking part and winning his races which he never thought he would do. The issue I have is the athlete is advising me that the training within the club is very repetitive and they are training to the point of being sick and unable to breath properly and told to continue running. I find this disturbing as I'm an asthmatic and know what it'd like being unable to breath and for a young athlete it must be scary especially when your told to continue running.    I became a coach to help, advise and listen to our athletes not punish them because they haven't yet met their full potential. What gives us coaches the right to stop athletes from training and competing? We We should all have a chance to achieve in life, we was all put on earth to live and experience life not to be told your not good enough, it's about athletes trying and experiencing different sports. 

  • philip.ratcliffe

    Couldn't agree more!

  • paulcrocker

    Rich that is so well written! Every word

  • paulcrocker

    Hi Emma,

    firstly it's unfortunately quite common, from some professionals and parents to want to play the best. They need to understand that the current best team is not going to be the team forever! The only way you can bring up new players is to give them that match time.

    on our club the teams selection is ultimately mine (as coach) but it's a process that involves captains, committee, manager and myself. I get the final say and they agree to support me. I'm Extremely lucky!!! That doesn't mean I don't ever upset people! 

    trust your gut, if it feels right to you it's right. Don't be swayed by anyone unless you agree with them sometime they can make you see it from a different angle that you perhaps missed but if your gut says unfair then you have every right to deflect complaints to the person making the decisions if they are not willing to share the responsibility they can be responsible to questioning.

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