By Tim Bradbury,
ENYYSA director of coaching.
Tim Bradbury is the director of coaching for Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
There are so many cute and catchy phrases that clubs, coaches and leagues throw out when attempting to recruit new players or members that many of them such as “Elite Academy Training,” “Expert Professional Staff” and, of course, “For the Love of the Game,” have all lost any sense of purpose or meaning.
They have evolved into empty clichés that nobody tries to fulfill.
As we head into the Spring Season, it is a good time to consider what the phrase Love of the Game truly refers to. I believe the true and beautiful answer lies at the heart of a child’s desire to PLAY. The type of play that is child-controlled with no coaches or adults around. Where kids pick the teams, make the goals with garbage cans or sweatshirts get to decide the rules (such as only score with a header or volley).
I understand these environments no longer exist, not just in the USA but in most countries in the world. Instead, we have sucked the fun out of the game with an overemphasis on drills, structure, coaches shouting orders at kids telling them when and where to move plus a win at all costs attitude.
Many people have written about this in a much more articulate manner than I can. Lots of podcasts, Ted Talks and books have been produced to try and get back to a place where we can honestly claim that a Love of the Game, a desire to play soccer and sport for life is at the center of our agenda.
I urge clubs, teams and groups of parents to have open and honest discussions on the questions below:
1. What is our number one priority and mission for all our players?
2. How much freedom and autonomy are players given within a season of practices?
3. Have we created an atmosphere where smiles and skills performed are more important than winning?
4. What are we doing to ensure our players love the game and wish to play for life?
5. How often are we asking the players if they are enjoying the process?
6. Can we create a street soccer type environment where they own the process?
7. What do the coaches emphasize and how are mistakes treated ?
8. Has anyone asked the players what they truly enjoy and find fun about our team or our club?
9. How well do we promote the concept of sport for life and giving back to the game?
What should be obvious in reading this is that I am an optimist and despite all the things I see around me, I truly believe we can get back to the time where clubs being centered on the Love of the Game becomes a reality again.