• Luke Towning

Let Them Play!

‘I’ve got them training 6-7 day per week now…’

We hear things like this a lot from well-meaning parents who think the more their child plays football the better it is for them.

The same applies to any other sport.

Unfortunately, whilst playing more can help improve skill-level, it isn’t always the best thing longer-term.

Kids can end up burnt out, injured because of over-training or simply fall out of love with it.

It can become boring if they are constantly in a controlled training environment day after day being told what to do and how to do it.

Children need the freedom of an unstructured activity (i.e. play), the release of playing another sport or simply a less-pressurised version of their favourite sport.

No pressure, no screaming from the side-lines, no coaches stopping it every 2 minutes to show everyone how much they know about football.

There’s nothing worse than parent guilt when it comes to activities for our children. We think we’re bad parents if we don’t have them doing something every day of the week.

But don’t worry. Allowing your child that free time to do whatever they want can actually help them in the long-run.

It might be they play out with friends, go out on their bikes or simply relax in front of the TV.

We as adults need our downtime and kids are no different. It helps them recharge and refocus.

Imagine if they are having a period when they are not playing well and nothing seems to be going right for them.

The last thing they need is to have MORE structured training day after day when all they might really want is a bit of a break or to focus on something else.

If training all the time is something they want to do then have a think about where and who they are training with.

Freedom, expression and problem-solving are huge parts of developing young footballers but the traditional way of coaching really goes against all of that (a blog for another time).

This is all part of the reason we set up like we did at Foot-Tech.

Our coaches are taught to ‘let them play’.

Nothing but encouragement, positivity and freedom to try things and be creative without the worries of being dropped from a team or being shouted at for trying something different.

It’s also part of the reason we set up our Speed Training. We wanted to give kids something of a release from the usual but something that would actually help their chosen sport.

In this case – it would help their speed, agility, balance and coordination.

Maybe they are into competitive swimming and have hard training a few days per week.

Have a think about doing a swimming-based activity that isn’t competitive where they can simply enjoy themselves.

Either way, hopefully this helps parents understand that you don’t need to put pressure on yourselves to always have your children doing a formal activity 7 days a week because you think it is better for them.

Maybe have those 1-2 days where you and your children get to the reap the benefits of doing nothing other than whatever you choose to do or get them involved in an activity/team that promotes that freedom of play that all children need.

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