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The Wrong Type of Competitive
A few things have happened this week, which have given me cause to mutter to myself as I trudge through the rain taking the dogs for their daily walk.
I was very flattered to be invited as a special guest to a cup final on one of the few days when it did not pour with rain. I sat with my specs trying to look every inch the analytical football coach, whilst wearing the smart clothes which I usually only squeeze into for job interviews or funerals.
I watched the game. The players worked hard and showed a lot of heart and determination. “Kick it!” and “Chase it!” – from the first minute of the game to the last blow of the referee’s whistle, this is what I heard from the man who was sat in the seat behind me.
A player would kick the ball, and as the game wore on, judging by the reaction of the crowd, I think that there was genuine surprise that any contact was made with the ball at all. Kicking the ball without discrimination received applause.
As a coach, I have sat and witnessed one opposition manager in particular, shouting abuse and sarcastic comments constantly throughout a game. He would aim his words at the officials, opposition players and even his own players.
This was at a relatively high level of the game, where players are considered ‘elite’ and coaches wear neon signs above their heads to let you know which qualification they hold. I have watched this manager in particular and noted that he never appeared to be reprimanded by the officials, never challenged. I did not hear any tactical advice or other such useful information from him towards his players. As I squinted at the reflection of the sun on my prescription glasses, I looked across at both goalkeepers. They stood, fixed to their line. “Well done!”
I heard from the man behind me, I looked at the pitch to see the ball in the air.
The players with their heads tilted back, this was a familiar theme, “a lot of neck
pains tomorrow morning” I thought to myself. I looked across again at both
goalkeepers still rooted to their line. One goalkeeper had her hand raised to her
head, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun. I looked at the coaches in each dug-out, they watched the player in possession. “Go on!… that’s what I tell my players to do” I turned around at these words to look at the man who was sat behind me.
I often suspect that there are some men who become involved in the women’s game due to an inability to work within the men’s game. They would be ‘found out’, aggressively tested and challenged with less reservation.
The manager who is abusive to his players and the opposition with such regularity would possibly have been separated from his teeth in the men’s game. Without condoning violence, the women’s game seems, at times, to double as a playground to build mini empires.
For the age group playing in this cup final, their male equivalents would have greater expectations placed on their performance.
I have coached male players and I have been to their games. There is a competitiveness and an expectation which seems absent in the female game.
Why is the coach applauding loss of possession and poor judgement? Why is there such a lack of tactical information given? If the coach does not know what information should be given why are they working with these players?
Some schools are not allowing girls to play football. Other schools are putting the wrong people in place,
keen people who do not know enough about the game with little likelihood of ever being guided. Perhaps a reflection of our attitude to sport in this country.
There has to be a middle ground, surely?
We have to take the women’s game more seriously and look to develop capable athletes.
Yes, I said it, athletes.
This article was published in Total Football magazine