DAVID FLITCROFT'S JUNIOR FOOTBALL COLUMN: Parents need to support players expressing themselves

The Bolton News: David Flitcroft during one of his sessions at FC Strikerz David Flitcroft during one of his sessions at FC Strikerz

DAVID Flitcroft has teamed up with The Bolton News to share his vision of producing top-class footballers. In the latest installment of his weekly column, the Bolton-based Bury manager speaks to reporter Robert Kelly about how parents can help kids to improve.

ANOTHER key factor in our children’s development is how we support them from the sidelines and on the way to and from games.

An initiative that is being discussed is silence from the touchline which involves a clampdown on parents shouting from the sidelines. However, I feel this is a backward step, not a forward one.

In the first four years of non-competitive grassroots football, I think parents and supporters should be assessed and awarded points for good behaviour.

Points could go to clubs that support their teams and the opposition in a positive way, helping to create a great learning environment.

Teams that finish near the bottom of the league should be brought before a parent discipline hearing.

That four year period would provide parents with a grounding on how best to support their team, as well as learn more about their style of play and what the coach was trying to achieve, allowing them to back him/her 100 per cent.

If a player from the opposition goes past three players and scores a great goal then it should be celebrated by ALL the supporters.

Currently this only happens on very few occasions.

As a nation, we have an obsession with winning the game and that is the only thing that matters. We are not interested in individual performance and development.

If we concentrated on the individual child and producing a different type of player and teach them how to attack positively then winning would become a product of that.

If the players are taught the right way – individually and collectively – the team will win games.

It’s a long-term plan that must involve great teaching, patience, support and bravery. When games are lost, it is vital that no members of the group turns their back on the plan. To go against the short-termism of winning at all costs and playing a direct style, you have to win and lose as a team.

Every member of the team must share and support the same vision. When I was at Rochdale we introduced an environment that was well disciplined. There were no individuals – it was all about the team. Nobody wanted to let the team down.

The reward was we finished at the top of the fair play league for two consecutive seasons and the club was rewarded financially.

I would go as far as to name and shame the teams that behaved in an inappropriate manner, while also rewarding teams that provide and produce an outstanding environment for children to play their football in. If the environment is respectful, joyous, professional, exciting and positive, so too will the play be. It will transmit from the touchline to the pitch.

The players will feel great and take risks, be imaginative and also creative. Making mistakes is part of what makes us forge our future. Albert Einstein once said “a person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new”. This quote is so true of grassroots football.

The fear of making a mistake that costs the team a goal suppresses the child so he or she does not want to get back on the ball. Young players then go missing in games, shying away from taking possession of the ball for fear of making another mistake.

Support is key to the way players express themselves and, in turn, how teams perform.

If there is a positive environment then that will allow children to play with a greater freedom.

A negative win at all costs philosophy stops youngsters from playing with freedom and suppresses their ability to make mistakes and, therefore, learn from them.

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