Let the Children Play

October 15, 2013 at 9:33 am 1 comment

Following a meeting of the all the Western Australian clubs accepted into the new National Premier League competition for 2014 it has apparently been decided that the Perth Glory/NTC teams from ages 12 -16 are to be made up of squads of twenty two players.

The FFA and Football West have made it quite clear that the NPL is to be a development league for the A-League and junior national teams; a premise many fear is doomed to fail. If however this is the case, why is the structure allowing one team to go against all of the proven facts behind producing successful players?

It has long been established that the sooner a young player has 10,000 hours of practice or game time behind them the better placed they will be to progress in not only football, but any sport.

By having a squad of twenty two in each of these age groups, and with only sixteen allowed on the match card, this means that at least six players each week will miss out on playing. Therefore slowing down their opportunity to reach the 10,000 hours. If this is about development, surely we want to be sure that more of the players between age 12-16 are playing each week, rather than less and more players reach the 10,000 hours sooner rather than later?

It has been suggested that the reason squads of 22 have been advocated is that it offers coaches the chance to have ‘meaningful training sessions’ with games of eleven versus eleven. This is simply laughable. For a start each week some child is bound to have an injury, flu, school commitments or some other reason to not  be there. Then once those left out find that they are not getting regular game time, their attendance at training will drop off even more.

What is wrong with what has been done for decades, moving players between age groups to see how they fare amongst older boys, or having the under 12’s play the under 14’s?

Once again to have such large squads in these age groups will prove detrimental to development. However no doubt it will be justified here when those boys who show talent and who get regular game time, choose to stick with the sport and no doubt progress. Coaches will claim that their decision to give these boys game time ahead of those who have by now walked away from the game was vindicated. Where are those who gave up? They will ask. They were not good enough, they will tell you. With all NPL clubs now required to have top line coaches one has to ask would a young player not be better off staying with his NPL club and getting regular game time?

Tom Rogic is a prime example to any aspiring young Australian footballer. You do not have to be a part of the ‘development pathway’ to succeed.   He was not picked up by any talent identification program and was on the verge of walking away from the game when he was encouraged to enter Nike’s “The Chance.” Eighteen months later he had signed for Glasgow Celtic.

After being identified by Nike’s Chance scout in Australia Ron Smith, Rogic arrived in the U.K. to take part in “The Chance” hoping that he would stand out among thousands of entrants. He did, he caught the eye of Nike Academy Director of Football Jimmy Gilligan and his coaching team, and made the  final top eight players in the world of “The Chance 2011.” He then won a place in the Nike Academy, living, training and playing as an elite footballer for a year.

Rogic was then signed by the Central Coast Mariners before transferring to Glasgow Celtic. He is a lesson to any boy who get’s overlooked in the development pathway that has been created, that the dream does not have to end; but the key thing is to make sure you are playing regularly. Based on any team have a twenty-two man squad in the NPL junior set up, far too many children in Australia will not be playing regularly, so the reserve of players which is already looking pretty thin will in fact dry up even further.

All one has to do is look around the world at what has been done else where and one will see that this is another decision where the possible ramifications have not been thought through.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Super sub  |  October 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    This is foolish and once again those running the game have shown that they have no idea. Perth Glory should not even be in the NPL.

    They certainly should not be poaching the best players from other clubs not to play them.


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