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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My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Growth Mindsets vs Fixed Mindsets

Take a look at every representative team selection process and there is literature in their guidelines about how the players/kids need to have a growth mindset or exhibit attributes of a growth mindset.

But for some reason, when it comes to picking kids, the selectors themselves have a fixed mindset. Selectors have a mindset that if the kids have been part of their program for a few years, they are better or “way ahead” than the kids that haven’t been in their program.

In Australia, parents pay $2500 for a kid to be in an elite junior team. The fact that a lot of kids don’t even try out for elite teams because of costs is never addressed. This leads to a user pay model, where the parents with money have their children in elite teams. This could be a problem or not a problem depending on the people who select the teams.

What seems to be happening is that the oldest and fastest kid for the age group is selected early on (at U9’s). By U12’s the kid hasn’t learnt how to play football properly, or learned when to use the correct ball mastery move based on what the opponent is doing. But the kid is still fast and is developing/maturing ahead of the other kids. If the selectors had to pick between this kid or the kid born in June, who is playing killer passes and is showing signs of game intelligence, they would still hold on to the kid that has been in the elite program.

Why you ask?

It’s because they have a fixed mindset. The way the selectors see it as like this;

  • Kid is in elite program, training 3 times a week with an accredited coach

versus

  • The kid playing club football, training 3 times a week (most grassroots club train 2 times a week but the high performing clubs train 3 times) with a parent as a coach. In some cases, a parent is accredited and in other cases they aren’t.

Now the accredited coach that the Elite team has can be a great coach or a poor coach. And the thing is, learning is difficult. If it was easy, all the kids would already know everything they need to know.

But unfortunately, there is a pre-judgement issue in the undertow. The kid that runs fastest to the ball is already on the radar because it’s that “easy to measure” skill. The fact that the kid has a poor touch into the opposition, turns into players and turns the ball over is forgotten. The fact the kid is not looking up to see what is happening in the game is also forgotten.

Who cares. He’s faster, he’s older and he’s winning the ball. But those easy to measure skills are not as important as the real skills that matter.

Look at the NFL and how they use data to decide how players coming into the draft should be ranked. The fact that Tom Brady recorded one of the worst scores and went on to become a superstar of the game, shows how people’s pre-judgement affects our choices.

Coaches and selectors need to also have a growth mindset and show some of the attributes the kids need to have. But we live in a society with a win at all cost mindset and a teams performance is viewed through the prism of the result.

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My Stories

Football And World Cup Qualification Failure…

Failing to qualify for the World Cup has highlighted how far the US game has fallen and it’s going to happen to the Australia national team soon.   

The signs of a looming catastrophe are everywhere. In Australia, we aren’t qualifying for the Youth World Cups at all and the majority of those youth national teams are made up of the best talent of the parents who can pay for $2500 a year for Elite Football. The current senior national team is made up of players who had parents who could pay the high fees for Elite Football. Not all players, but a large percentage. So is it any wonder that the only player in the current Australian team who took a unique and different way  to make it in football, had the most impact. Of course, I am talking about Tim Cahill. 

But the pay to play culture in Australia is killing the sport. It’s become even more evident over the last 5 years in this country how “elite football” in this country has become a billion dollar industry. And the competitive kids who are selected early because they are born at the start of the year and run faster than all the rest, keep getting retained in these elite programs because they were there first in, even when the kids born later have shown to have better skills and game intelligence. 

This pay to play culture eliminates the potential x-factor player and makes football a sport that kids from upper-middle class parents can play at an “elite level”. That kid that didn’t even trial for an elite team because of the fees or that kid which got selected for an elite team at U9’s and then had to withdraw because the parents couldn’t pay, is now probably kicking goals in AFL or scoring tries in Rugby League.

The biggest problem of “pay to play” is that it removes the individual from the team and from learning the language of football. It makes it all about the individual. With the investment of parents, they expect results for their child, the individual. Australia is a country that has a population which includes every race of the world and somehow the coaches/selectors are not able to find “real talent”.

I wonder why. 

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music My Companion

I watched Australia beat Iraq last night, with my family. I watched 80,000 people celebrate as the 2014 theme song, Bellini – Samba De Janeiro started to play on the loudspeakers. It got me thinking about the role music plays in defining moments. If there is a celebration to be had, music is at the forefront.

After the 2014 World Cup theme song finished, the famous A chord groove from Malcolm Young started, introducing Long Way To The Top from AC/DC. The crowd responds. We know the words. Long Way To The Top is slowly becoming another unofficial Australian anthem. It is the video clip that pushed Long Way To The Top into the stratosphere. It’s the band, on a back of a truck, riding down the CBD of Melbourne. It’s raw, it’s honest. More importantly, it captures the band at what they do best. Perform.

So I am driving home, and the family is asleep. I notice that my wife had put the radio on. It’s 104.9. Triple M. Once upon a time, Triple M was on the bleeding edge. It played music that the DJ’s wanted. It broke new bands. Then like all the radio stations, it started to please advertisers and board members. The playlists became the same regurgitated garbage over and over again. However at 10.30pm it was different. Kick Start My Heart is playing. I haven’t heard Motley Crue on the radio since the late eighties.

Then Bush came on. It was the song Comedown. That bass riff in Comedown, is the same as the verse guitar riff in You Give Love A Bad Name. It’s basic, it’s within the Pentatonic scale and it has authority. It screams PAY ATTENTION.

I had forgotten what a great song Comedown is. I really liked Bush when they came out. I still can’t work that one out. I didn’t like Nirvana a lot, but I liked Bush and after hearing Nirvana and then hearing Bush, you can pick up a lot of vocal similarities. Puddle of Mudd is another band that had a large Nirvana influence.

Pearl Jam was up next with Better Man, however after Bush, I already made up my mind to switch to the iPod. The football game finished with music and then I had music on the 90 minute drive home to keep me company.

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