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Want Your Child To Become A Standout Player? Focus On The ‘Core Football Skills’!

by Coach Kurtis

One of the most common things I see as a youth football coach is players who have not developed the ‘core’ football skills that will allow them to play the game effectively!

These days, children are less likley to hit the streets & playing felds like they used to a few years ago.

Playstations and mobile phones are all the rage and parents attudes towards allowing there kids to venture outside have changed greatly, due to all the attention about all the bad things going on in the world!

What many forget is that ‘free play’ (playing football without adult interference) embeded many of the ‘core football skills’ that give young players the foundations to learn the more advanced aspects of the game!

“So Kurtis, are you trying to tell me that I should encourage my child to get involved in football games that just allow them to play without any instructions from adults?”

That is exactly what I am saying!

For many parents the sheer thought of just letting their kids get on with it is just too much to bare.

“But what about when they make mistakes? who will tell them what to do? how will they learn what is right and what is wrong?”

Another thing we tend to do as parents (me included) is forget that with ‘every huge failure is an even bigger lesson’!

Kids know when they have done something wrong, and just like adults, they hate repeating the wrong action.

What normally happens then you ask? they eventually try something different until they come up with a better solution.

But how is this possible? there is no one there teaching them? but actually there is in the form of the other players.

One thing kids are good at (and adults) is copying each other and there are normally other kids who have picked things up quicker than others.

Now I know what some of you are thinking “that is just not possible for us, we don’t want our child playing in the streets because its unsafe and there aren’t many opportunities for them to play the game freely, so what can we do instead?”.

How Parents Can Help Develop Their Childs Core Football Skills!

Don’t get me wrong, it is difficult to give your child what you may have had growing up and I must admit this is something even I have struggled with.

When I was a child, I would spend hours playing football with my freinds either on muddy playing fields of unforgiving street cages.

In those ‘arenas’ it taught me many of the core football skills such as;

  • Staying with the ball (close control, dribbling).
  • Running with the ball.
  • Screening, as I was constantly under pressure from other players.
  • The importance of having a good 1st touch. Without it, you would never keep hold of the ball for very long.
  • Kicking variations. Sometimes it is required to use different parts of the foot to make harder passes or shots.
In the beginning focus on developing the ‘core football skills’

These days with my son, I have to be more hands on to help build his ‘core football skills’.

Now when I say ‘hands on’ I don’t mean take over every aspect of his development, he has to still have some ownership of it.

I see my role as more of the ‘facilitator’. I take him to games, team training and supplement those with 1 to 1 training with myself.

Before I get to the 1 to 1 parent football training, let’s talk a little about what I have learned with the coach selection process when choosing a team!

Choosing A Football Coach!

You might be thinking “Kurtis why are you talking about choosing football team?”.

I feel many neglect to give this area the attention that it deserves as it plays a big a part in your childs development!

When my son joined his first team I took the time to look into it thoroughly.

When I located a local side, I would look up there website to see what they stood for. If they didn’t have one I would call up the coach and ask them a series of questions to get an idea of how they like the game to be played.

If I was happy with this then I would take him there (if they had spaces available) and watch the session.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that in the UK, coaches in grassroots football are volunteers so I am not expecting to see the next Pep Guardiola.

But what I do want to see is the following;

  • Do they know how to work with children? Some adults just find it difficult to understand how children work, therefore refuse to make adjustments for them which ultimately impacts learning.
  • How do they like the game to be played? This is also very important to find out before committing. Your child will find it very difficult to develop their core skills if the coach likes to encourage ‘hoof ball’ tactics (long balls or kicking the ball out when there is little pressure).
  • Do they have an enthusiasm to learn and improve? or does the club regularly support the coaches with their development

If you would like to learn more about choosing a football or team for your child then checkout this post!

I understand that in some countries things are done differently but you can still use the information above as a guide to choosing a coach if you are unsure what to look for.

Becoming a Football Parent Trainer!

For many coaches in grassroots, parents shouldn’t be anywhere near player development and in some aspects, it does benefit the player to have a ‘standoffish’ approach!

But I don’t entirely agree that a football parent should play no part in their childs development.

Whether you like it or not, all parents will have some form of influence on the players, as a coach cannot be there with them 24/7, and the sooner the coaches realize this the better, as parent education on the game would be a huge benefit to the parents & players!

Another massive benefit for player development is if a parent is willing to work with their child away from team training.

Now you might be thinking “how will this help my child? I am not a coach so how can I teach my child anything?”

Remember when I mentioned earlier how kids can learn a lot of things without much adult interference, they just need the right environment!

Throw in some guidance (it is still important to help them find the solution with prompts and asking questions to aid their development) here and there and you have a great tool to supplement what they do at their club.

“Remember, Some form of coaching should still take place but I have found using key questioning & prompts to aid problem-solving more beneficial!”

coach kurtis

Remember, without the ‘core’ football skills properly introduced to the beginners game, it makes it a lot harder to teach the more advanced methods i.e tactics, etc. Here is a reminder of those ‘core football skills’

  • Staying with the ball (close control, dribbling).
  • Running with the ball.
  • Screening, as I was constantly under pressure from other players.
  • The importance of having a good 1st touch. Without it, you would never keep hold of the ball for very long.
  • Kicking variations. Sometimes it is required to use different parts of the foot to make harder passes or shots.

Obviously, this should be supplemented with lots of play without much instruction i.e street football, playing with friends on the field, or even futsal.

It’s important for kids to ‘express themselves’ and decide ‘when’ to apply what they have learned on their own terms.

Parents & coaches I encourage you to not skip this process and opt to focus completely on areas such as the ‘tactical or physical side’ or things that are simply beyond your child in this early stage of development. The ‘core’ skills are the foundation for everything else, let’s build from there.

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