Supporting young players in football

Written by Xhulio Zeneli

Every professional football player started playing the game at a young age. As a result, the preparation and training of young players has a major impact on their future. Youth football is a time for players to learn the basics of the game, and have fun. The two most important stakeholders in that journey are coaches and parents.

Parents, and their actions, sideline behaviours and dialogues with their athlete, play an important role in the future career of their kids. Every parent affects the journey of their kids in football, whether it be positively or negatively. They play a positive role when they support their kids in every situation, regardless if their child played well, or made mistakes. But parents can sometimes offer too much or too little support, and negatively affect the performance of their kids. Parents sometimes push their children to train beyond their capabilities, pressure them to always perform to the highest level, or yell at them when they make mistakes and don’t play well. Another mistake that parents make, is that in different situations they take the role of the coach, don’t respect the coach, and suggest to their kids different advice from the coach. Some parents will even go as far as to tell their kids not to listen to the coach. This often leaves kids confused, and limits their autonomy to make decisions on their own.

Another stakeholder that plays a fundamental role for young football players is the coaches. A lot of coaches forget to take the situation of every player into consideration and to instead focus on a select few who standout. They often focus more on winning games and trophies, rather than developing each and every athlete and emphasizing fun. This puts too much pressure on kids too early on their careers, and often leads to withdrawals from sport altogether. Many superstar young players quit the game before they ever get the opportunity to turn pro. We as coaches and parents need to do better in keeping kids in the game, through a focus on fun and mastery of techniques and skills.

Both parents and coaches need to be mindful of their behaviours and ensure players want to stay in the game for their entire lives. They should stop focusing on results, and keep in mind the process of improving players and making them better for the future. They should keep in mind the four corners – technical, tactical, physical and psychological, when it comes to development and ensure all players are enjoying playing the beautiful game. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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