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…
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.
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?