As high profile players continue to influence young people in the sport, the impact of negative play, feigned injury and anger issues has filtered down into youth football. This begs the question; is football a good sport to be encouraging kids to be involved in?
Common sense details the clear health benefits connected to involvement in any sport. Youth coaching in football can however also provide other, less obvious advantages for children. The Score Goals initiative supported by Motherwell FC highlights the positive effects football can have on children who are taught from an early age. He maintains that apart from the technical benefits; it encourages discipline, team work and social skills. Attributes which are not only useful and beneficial in the world of sport and football specifically; but are also readily transferable into other areas of life. In addition, research carried out by the Independent Schools Council reported that participating in extra curricular sporting activities can significantly improve exam performance.
Charitable organisation OneWorld365 is one of a number of charities which uses football coaching with under privileged children in developing countries. They do this due to the ‘immeasurable indirect benefits’ it provides, such as health awareness and increased confidence- a clear example of how youth football is used to influence and improve general life skills as well as health and fitness.
As helpful as youth coaching is to children themselves, it is also thought that encouraging and advancing youth football is the only way to improve the success of Scottish football as a whole. Jim Fleeting of the Scottish Football Association is a great advocate of developing skills, understanding and enthusiasm from a young age in order to create a stronger structure for professional football in the future. With the national team failing to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup earlier this year, it’s hoped that improving grass roots coaching and training will generate solid foundations and stabilise the game. The former First Minister Henry McLeish has emphasised the importance of this process in his Scottish Football Review; the second part of which is to be published by November.
Coaches in youth football are well placed to instil desirable qualities in children and can positively impact their lives both on and off the pitch. Peter Weir, a coach at Aberdeen FC believed the best way to support and nurture young players is to ensure they enjoy the game. Promoting good attitudes, healthy lifestyles and respect for others is also important according to Hibernian’s coach Alistair Stevenson. They hope that by encouraging children into football from a young age, Scotland will produce great players in the future, and children will reap the benefits, both on and off the pitch.