What a difference a day makes!!

April 19, 2021

Today we are discussing the structure of youth football and looking at how we can make it a fairer environment for everyone involved.

I was born on the 30th of July and back in the 80's and 90's the cut off date for youth football was the 31st of July. I was basically 2 days away from being able to play an age group below. I was lucky that I was able to compete against older and more physical players and I actually think it helped me to develop as a player but not everyone will have been in the same position.

In my capacity as head coach of Futsal Escocia and as a scout at Rangers, I always look at the players date of birth and take that into consideration when assessing players. More often than not the development players in Futsal Escocia Academy and Youth teams are born in the last quarter of the year and the more advanced players are born in the first quarter. There are exceptions to the rule and biological age may have a lot to do with that but is the current structure of football preventing more children from developing and does it favour players who are physically more developed? I have no doubt in my mind that technically better players are being overlooked for players that will win matches and parents, coaches and scouts often fail to recognise this.

Futsal Escocia Structure

6 years ago I set up our Futsal Escocia leagues in Fife and decided not to restrict the leagues based on age groups. This decision was based on my experience at grassroots where 2 or 3 teams in the region were only getting a handful of competitive games a year at their own age group. I created a structure where teams and/or players can move up and down levels/age groups and to play in an environment that is more appropriate to their ability. The structure isn't perfect but it provides the opportunity for players to play in a more competitive structure that does all it can to restrict 20-0 score lines and 1 player dominating the whole game. If a player in our youth teams is dominating the game and changing the result on their own, we simply move the player up a level. This provides the challenges that players require to develop and means the players within their team will also get the opportunity to do so without being reliant on that 1 player. If the child is struggling in any environment, we move them down a level and hope that they get more touches of the ball, gain confidence and flourish.

What are the disadvantages with this structure?

Like any structure there are pros and cons. The cons that I have experienced are coaches placing players or teams in a level they shouldn't be so that they can win the game, another is the parents. Some parents would rather have their child in a level where they are struggling than put down a level where they can enjoy the game and develop more. Unfortunately winning and egos sometimes come before player development.

What changes would you like there to be in youth football/futsal? Please let us know.