Football crazy! When it’s your child who isn’t picked

At the weekend, I posted a picture on Instagram of Crackernut proudly holding up his Golden Boot – the weekly award given to the coach’s trainer of the week. He’s been waiting for ages to get something like this, so I’m sure many of you know that when the day finally comes it’s a very special moment, and a real confidence booster. However, I’m actually annoyed at the football club and here’s why…

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Crackernut, age 7, got a place in the local football club’s Under 8’s team at the end of the season last summer, along with his cousin. His cousin is a natural and skilled player, my son less so, but he has fun having a kick about. He had been going to another after-school football club for over a year and loved it, so we signed him up as a way to spark some more interest. Our children have always done clubs of some sort, we believe extra curricular activities are an important aspect of growing up, providing they are enjoyable and enjoyed!

At the time of them joining, there was a tournament and both boys were invited to play. They started at the deep end! We went to watch and I was surprised how serious it all was; parents shouting at their kids from the sidelines, like they were shouting at a Premiership game. Some I thought took it too far, getting angry at their team’s performance… in my mind they are kids, many of them still learning how to even play the flipping game! My son looked out of his depth but he loved it and was very proud indeed to be part of the ‘professional’ club.

However, a few months ago the club took on another coach to help manage the number of children who’d joined. There are around 30 kids in the Under 8’s team, which was proving too many to train in one group. The lead coach is one of these parents who takes the ‘beautiful’ game seriously, his shouty, ‘army major’ approach is not that popular with other parents, and he clearly has a personal agenda to be the next England Manager! He decided to split the children into three teams with one coach each – let’s call them A, B and C.

Each child is assessed based on skill, attitude, attendance, subs paid and then put into a team. My son was put into the C team while his cousin in the A team. I was surprised. I knew the boys were different in skill level and I’m under no pretences there, but I didn’t feel Crackernut should have been put two teams down as he’s now playing with much younger boys.

At the time, I voiced my concerns that by splitting the team out this way, the boys aren’t training together as a team and will mean the less-skilled players (in the C team) won’t get so much involvement. This was under 8’s for heaven’s sake not England! At this age, during weekly training, I’d expect a bit of a fun kick about and friendly games with players mixed up. The reason we wanted Crackernut to join was as a natural progression from the after-school club, and to spark his interest in football, and be part of a local respected club. I can’t believe this is happening. My hubby had a 35-year football career at the same club. He says he certainly wasn’t playing competitively at that age; times have clearly changed.

I was told it was the only way to manage the numbers and the children will be moved around the teams periodically. They didn’t agree it was a top/middle/bottom mentality, but the children themselves can clearly already see it is. Yes, as the coaches are volunteering they can do what they like, and I suppose if we don’t like it, we can leave.

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I let it go. I don’t want to make a fuss and after all Crackernut was happy enough. Trying to look at it positively, I even thought being one of the best players in the C team might actually boost his confidence a bit.

So, for a few weeks they’ve been training this way. My son seems to a large degree unaware of his new status in the team as a whole, although my hubby noticed that his team often trains away from the other two teams while they get to use the real goal. Surely all the boys should get a chance to kick the ball into the goal during training? Where is the fun?

Then an email comes through that teams A and B have a match on Saturday. Team C’s training is therefore cancelled but they can go and support if they wish. I could cry with frustration.

Crackernut knows about the tournament from his cousin (who is representing the A team – he called it the ‘top’ team!). So I tell him that he won’t be playing in the match, that his team has nothing whatsoever to do on Saturday. He looked sad and confused.

I don’t want to overegg this, as I do believe in healthy competition and I know this is all part of learning how unfair life is, etc, but it seems my concerns were valid after all. My son feels sad. He’s become aware he’s in the ‘bottom’ team. So his confidence will be knocked. He says he’s ‘rubbish at football’. His enthusiasm for the game perhaps affected in the long term.

I guess only time will tell if the C team get their own match soon, and if the players are moved around the teams as the coach said. Perhaps I’m just being a bit protective of my boy?

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable?

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6 thoughts on “Football crazy! When it’s your child who isn’t picked

  1. Ooof, you see and hear of this a lot. My son plays rugby and we chose a team where there is no A or B team, just one big team where everyone gets to play regardless of their ability.
    The bigger club is walking distance from our house and we refused to go there because the coach is a win at all costs man (only plays the strongest players, never puts a loss on the website, referees to suit his team). My son is 12 now and TOTALLY recognises when coaches are unfair or unreasonable so what kind of lesson is that to kids?
    I really feel your pain!

    • Oh thank you! It’s so good to know I’m not alone. We’re still in two minds about this club, sadly it is the main club that all the boys want to join. I’ll have to see how it goes. x

  2. This is such a difficult area to navigate. At the end of the day, football is a competitive sport and being competitive infers a will to win. With some people, parents and coaches, this becomes all-consuming……. even at age 7. They sometimes all miss the point that without cultivating an enjoyment in being part of a team, working together and supporting ALL members of the club, skill and competitiveness will only get you so far. The challenge is, kids get fed up getting beat every week as well. It gets worse as well. Wait until it’s the managers son, who gets picked every week, instead of your son, even though he a) isn’t as good as most of the other children in the team and b) isn’t interested and only goes because his ultra-competitive dad makes him ! Double standards big time.

    In all honesty, I believe competitiveness shouldn’t really kick in until they are older. You can pick any age really but the step up to big school at 11 is probably a good point. Concentrate on building their skills and team ethos up until that point, the rest will come naturally and they are then at an age where it all makes a bit more sense.

    I was so glad when my son didn’t follow me down the football route, he chose cricket. Although cricket still has that level of competitiveness, he joined a club where just playing and having fun was more important when they were young. And do you know what, they got better and better and although they weren’t the best skilled team in the league then ended up winning the league from being the best ‘team’. Everyone supported everyone else and even when the lesser players were drafted in, they excelled in that environment.

    Oh and it is soooo much more fun sat on the boundary in the summer with a beer in hand and a nice tea served at ‘half time’ with sandwiches and cakes. Beats a cold King George the Fifth (KG5) on a wet and windy Sunday in November any day !!!!

    • Hi and thanks so much for your comment! It’s actually good (though unsurprising) to know I’m not alone. I’ve heard this kind of story time and again.
      Funnily enough our coach does have his son in the squad, though I’m not sure how good he is.
      My son tried cricket at school once and enjoyed it so I’ll have a look around and see what’s what. I know he wouldn’t want to leave the football club so it’s hard to know what to do. While he’s enjoying it it’s OK but as he’s growing up he’s becoming more aware of things like this. Gahhhh!

  3. I’ve a very trying situation at the moment, I am a manager of an u10’s team, the team is fantastic and always giving 100%, which is all I can ask, however our goalkeeper is a real weak link, always turns up, but doesn’t take the game serious, basically it’s just the being in a team that matters, the boys have all asked me if we can change keepers as they want to win things, I love winning and seeing the team grow and each week we are getting better and better but the goalkeeper is still at the same stage as pre season and shown no improvement, I really don’t know what to do myself as cutting him out the team would ruin him but I’ve 10 kids and parents pressuring me to get rid, I have provided professional goalkeeper coaching, 1 on 1 sessions but it’s going nowhere, I don’t know what to do as I understand the boys views but the keeper would be ruined, I’ve some serious desisions to make and its beginning to effect my passion for the game,

    • There’s no doubt it isn’t easy being a children’s football manager / coach. While I do understand your predicament I’m still surprised by the problem. My reply is why would a boy be a goalkeeper at that age? Does he play in other positions? Does everyone get a turn in goal? You say he is only playing to be in the team and I expect his attitude is frustrating, although there must be a way to engage him. Perhaps he’s aware of his so-called failings and already doesn’t have much confidence yet doesn’t want to lose face by leaving (surely every boy needs a team to call his own?). Of course you can’t ask a child to leave the club simply because he’s not at your preferred standard but perhaps talk to him quietly and find out what he really thinks. I’m sure you know that children bloom at different ages and asking him to leave and/or take responsibility for your team losing sends a signal that your aim isn’t to teach children the sport but how to win at all costs (which is against the FA guidelines and would also be off-putting for parents of children who aren’t mini Beckhams). Yes, winning is a key part of any game, however your boys are learning not just about the game but also about sportsmanship. Perhaps more player rotation and some team building games that aren’t just about getting a goal would help? It sounds like you’re a good and popular teacher who is perhaps finding that the pressure from pushy parents and players is impacting your better judgement. In our experience it still seems that unless you come out of the womb with the skills – and attitude – of a pro footballer you will always be on the bench. This article might be of interest… http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/35054310 But most of all don’t give up on your team or your passion, they need you!

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