Friday, 18 April 2008

Leanne Ryan: "My kids don't want to play soccer."

Leanne Ryan, come back to soccer, it's all okay!

Cor blimey, Leanne Ryan has stuck her neck out. Talk about a big issue. Leanne,
has written in today's Brisbane Courier Mail, and she's livid about the FFA's Small Sided Games! Livid I tell ya!

She reckons she's got, or maybe had, two football loving sons, but now with the new SmallSidedGames they don't want to play.

No goalies for Under 8's, no Grand Final, no points. It's all too much for her kids who I assume are Under 8. Otherwise they could stand in goal and freeze their brass monkeys off every Saturday, and learn to be bored, as she would like.

Come on Leanne, what are your boys going to do now?

Go and get bashed up playing League or Union.
You can read Leanne's concerns below.

MY SONS are passionate about soccer. They play soccer in the lunch-hour at school, soccer in the back yard at home and even soccer in the lounge room with an inflatable ball when my interest in protecting the furnishings seems futile.

Every year, the countdown to soccer season, which kicks off for our local club tomorrow, is an affair filled with much anticipation.

But not this year. This year they don't even want to play.

The introduction of "small-sided games" by the Football Federation of Australia means they can't play the version of the game they have grown to love. And they have little interest in the watered-down alternative – a non-competitive run-around on an undersized field with a few other players, none of whom are permitted to defend the goal until they hit the older grades.

The FFA recently announced moves to axe goalies from junior soccer games, part of sweeping changes for junior fixtures it claims will tone down competition and boost ball skills, teamwork and fun.

However, while most officials and club leaders support the changes, called small-sided games or SSGs, parents and some players are less than impressed.

Apparently, under the new feel-good system they'll get to touch the ball a lot. But they don't want to simply connect boot with ball. They can do that in the back yard at home and we can save ourselves the hefty registration fee. They want the real deal – a full game in a full team on a full field, Socceroos-style. And they're not alone. It's a sentiment echoed by many of their soccer-mad friends.

The Football Federation and, indeed, society as a whole needs to give children some credit. They can handle healthy competition. They can handle being part of a team spread across a field, knowing it's not all about them and their self-esteem.

They can handle playing specific positions and even standing in goal for however long it takes for the ball to come their way. They can. They should. And they have in the past. Why take it away from them now?

Let them be bored in goal. Let them feel what it is to concede a game, to taste victory, to settle for a draw. Let them experience it all. My eldest son lost his grand final last year. Do I wish he hadn't? No. It was a valuable learning experience, a valuable life experience. Perhaps even more so than winning could have been.

And definitely more so than if the competitive element had been removed entirely. Yes, he was incredibly disappointed, but he was also grateful for the opportunity to partake in a match that mattered.

He also spent half the game defending the goal. A position he relished and excelled in, implementing the skills he'd cultivated since his debut in under-six. He would never have had that opportunity under the new regulations. He would have spent the first three years making sure he passed the ball a lot and didn't score more than his quota of three individual goals.

Sure, sport is mainly about the fun factor, but focusing on a warm and fuzzy concept of fun, trying to protect children from their own emotions, is to deny them the full sporting experience. Which has the potential to be fun in a more holistic sense.

The score, the ladder, the shot at the grand final is what inspires these children. The ball-skills naturally follow. As does the satisfaction. But without that specific motivation the enjoyment won't be as intense, the skills not nearly as important. They need a good reason to take to the field and chase the ball around.


Shane said...

I spent an entire season in U8s playing as a goalkeeper. I was good but my God it was boring. The next year my mother only let me play if they agreed to not put me in goals so that I could run around and actually play.

I didn't start developing ball skills until very late in the season in U10s. SSG would have been perfect for me and most of my team mates at that time, instead of the usual 'knock it long to the fast kid who scores all the goals' tactics of most of my junior football.

I've got no sympathy for Ms Ryan's argument. Kids that age need to be encouraged to participate as much as possible and learn, not be camped down one end of the field waiting for the ball.

Eamonn said...

I agree with you Shane

And as a former Teacher I would aim to get kids involved as much as possible in any learning activity.

Never heard of anyone learning to read without reading regularly, and never heard of anyone getting great skills by never touching or hardly ever touching the ball.

Interesting slant by the paper. What a positive article to print on the eve of the season.

Hats off to the Courier Mail.

Martin said...

I'd just like to wish her kids good luck - with Leanne as their mum I think they will need it.