A to Z of Making It, My Stories, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

The Discrimination Against Grassroots Clubs

We played a tournament recently that involved accepted grassroots and representative teams. The difference between grassroots and representative teams is money. The parents of kids who play in grassroots pay no more than $200 in registration, while the parents of kids who play in representative teams pay $2500 in registration.

So now that you know the difference you should understand what happens in these tournaments.

The tournament had three high performing grassroots teams enter an age group. They put all those three teams into one group with two low performing representative teams. So that meant 5 teams in Group A. The other two groups (B and C) had four teams each and all representative teams.

Now for the interesting part, only the team that came first in Group A would progress to the Semi Finals, not the team that came second. So effectively, the Governing State Body ensured that the high performing club teams knocked each other out, so only one would survive to make the semi-finals with three representative teams (who by the way played cross over matches of 1 v 3, 1 v 3 and 2 v 2 to decide the three SF spots).

Basically, the Club teams needed to come FIRST to get a spot in the SEMI FINALS and the representative teams could have come first, second or third and they still had the same chance.

However if they put these three club teams in each group, there could be a possibility that the semi-finals could involve the three club teams and one representative team.

And this is how discrimination occurs to protect an income source.

You have footballing associations so scared of failure and the brand damage which might come with it, they use their local area monopolistic power to influence everything.  If three club teams made it to the semi-finals of this tournament, how can the representative teams justify their inflated fees.

Imagine a starting line for a second.

All the kids that play football (soccer) are lined up on the starting line. A person says for all the kids who play football to take a step forward. And all of them do. The person then says, take a step forward if you want to play professionally and 80% of the kids step forward.

The person then says, all the kids who have played in a representative team take a step forward and 20% of the kids left take a step forward. The person then says, all the kids who are playing at grassroots, take a step backwards while the representative kids take another step forward.

The person then says, if you’ve played for a representative team for one year, take another step forward, for two years, two steps forward, for three years, three steps forward and for four years or more, take 4 steps forward.

And suddenly, you have 16 players who are steps ahead of the rest. But are those 16 kids really that far ahead or so much better than the grassroots kids.  Maybe there are 15 kids who don’t belong there, however due to being born earlier in the year, they have matured and grown faster than the later born players.

As the kids get older, those late developers are progressing and catching up or those players born at the start of the year that didn’t specialise early in football are also now catching up, but the Coaches and Technical Directors of representative teams (not all of them, but a lot of them) have a fixed mindset.

These people cannot believe how kids outside of their academies/representative teams can develop into great players on their own initiative or under the guidance of a grassroots coach or their own parent.

The Germans have shown how this is possible.

“Of those who were recruited at an age of under 11 or under 13, at the age of under 19, only 9 percent are left. On the other hand, those who made it to the national A team of Germany, those we see in the World Cup for example, were being built up gradually across all age stages.

The population of senior top athletes emerges in the course of repeated selection, de-selection, and replacements across all age stages rather than developing from those early selected.

There were athletes who did not exceed initial D squad (regional junior squad), they were first recruited into the system at 15 years. The C squad (the national junior squad) were first recruited at the age of 17. Those who made it to senior world class (A squad) were first recruited at 19 years. So the more successful at the senior level, the later was the recruitment into the talent development system.

Most early selected youngsters do not become successful seniors. Most successful seniors were not selected particularly early.”

Professor Güllich gave an example from the German football TDP (talent development programme) system

In Michael Calvin’s documentary, “No Hunger In Paradise: The Players. The Journey. The Dream”, of all the boys who enter the academy at 9 years of age in the U.K, less than 0.5% make it or make a living from the game. Of the 1.5 million boys playing football, only 180 will make it to the Premier League. A success rate of 0.012%.

As the article states, the odds are the same as being hit by a meteorite as you are going home.

There are good coaches and Technical Directors  in Australia, however there are also TD’s in denial. So focused on their source of income, and the selling of their curriculum pathways.

Governing sporting bodies have done a great marketing job in making people believe in the pathway. This magic golden brick road, a linear path, that promises athletes who start as beginners will end up as experts.

It’s a myth. It doesn’t exist.

The belief in “The Pathway” is destructive to the sport. The road to being a professional is different for every player. Kids start playing a sport for various of reasons. Some enjoy manipulating the ball, others want to have fun, others want to be a professional player from a young age, some just like competing and winning.

The pathway puts forward the idea that if a player joins an academy, then a rep team, then a National Premier League Team they will eventually progress to the Professional League and the national youth teams and main team.

Instead of everyone investing in “The Pathway”, maybe the monies and the coaches should be invested in building the grassroots clubs, there facilities, and growing Football from the grassroots clubs and not the other way around. And one thing is clear, if the child isn’t technically proficient, then they will struggle.

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