Today, we went to our very first kids football U7’s league match. The day started well, getting up at the rise, all excited, nerves and expectancy in the air.
I have to admit I was fairly worried. We were worried parents. Would we go to the right place? Would we remember all the kit? Would everyone get there? Would we be on time? Would we get our team instructions right? Would the kids enjoy it?
And of course the biggest worry of all – the parents … not really ours, but the oppositions. Would they be nice? Stories of parent bad behaviour is rampant all across the media, we all know that it is painted as the scourge of English football. Even Gary Lineker has had his say and fill of bad parent experiences. Having read all the reports we had images of parents shouting at the players, the referee and opposition players and parents.
Tom Spring the Explorers U7’s Team Manager seemed a cracking chap on the phone, “it’s all about the kids enjoying themselves” he said. Being the first time our kids had played a competitive league match we were worried the opposition may be miles better than us, more used to the rules, competing and generally more battle savvy. Our philosophy is all about developing skills so we were anxious about the impact of competitive games on how the kids would react.
Tom shared that it was the first match as well for his children, couple of friendlies and the odd tournament, but nothing to be too worried about. We had a nice chat about the kit and decided to wear our sky blue kit as our navy blue and their royal blue might clash. He had sorted out the ref and we agree to meet at 9.30 for the 10.00.
So off we went, checking our eldest’s boots, shin pads, strip ready and off course a drink and some snacks. Olga my wife had packed the chairs and bags and the all important video camera, to record the event for the family history.
The place was easy to find (It was my home ground for a Sunday league team I played for in the 80’s) and sure enough Tom was there. All smiles, hand shake at the ready and after a bit of friendly banter we together put up the goals together and then got off organising our own kit and teams. Ref turned up, Jack, 16, really nice young man.
Yusuf and his family were the first to arrive - and they had come all the way from Reading. Next were our Team Coaches Gav and Suky with their children, Dylan and Monty. Abi (Monty's Mum) had brought the oranges and the mums were putting out their chairs and picnic rugs. The sun was shining and it was a brilliant morning. Even though we had organised everything, got there early, it still felt we were all over the place. Gavin looked after the team sheet, team tactics and team talk and Suky the substitutes and goalie changes. That left me with the kit, the warm up, the player registration cards the skills and paying the ref. Olga was on the video and even had time to go off and get a coffee for me and the team coaches. It was only 5 a side but we had more faffing and adults faffing around than kids!
Tom and the host club had put up a respect barrier for all the parents to stand behind. Great idea. All the home opposition parents arrived and they appeared to be a great bunch. Any fears on that score totally evaporated. I nodded and made a joke to one of them – broke the ice a bit.
We started OK and looked good on the ball. We teach our children to pass and concentrate on their skills. We don't do much tackling. In a competitive situation this is quite difficult and we were pressed back to our goal. The opposition looked more battle savvy and got the ball into our half quickly and chased the ball down. After a couple of attacks of our own we spent most of the first half pinned back.
Pressing high up the pitch waiting for mistakes and a loose ball to shoot at goal seemed the order of the day. It worked really well for the Explorers. Sure enough we went 1-0 down. 1-0 turned into 3-0 and 5-0. We were still playing well, trying to pass it between our players, trying to play the right way.
Still we kept telling our players to concentrate on their skills and passing to themselves. You could see their concentration each time they were under pressure and trying to find a team mate. The grass was a bit long for their little feet and moving the ball between them was difficult. But everyone was proud. Every little pass, every challenge and attempted tackle was cheered on.
The second half was more of the same. We were getting worried now that our players would be get down hearted and lose their confidence. However they kept at it trying to do all the right things, practicing their skills and passing. We were worried they may not even score. But they were growing in confidence, getting used to tackling and the physical side of the game. Monty was getting some joy and was able to get more of the ball, dribble and passing to team mates. Freddy was getting used to the physicality and you could see him growing in confidence with a couple of strong runs down the wing. Dylan and Harley were getting in on the act with some nice skills, passing and tackling.
Then the moment to remember forever. Monty created some magic. One great tackle, dribbled past two and then a wonderful drag back and lay off to the right hand side to Freddie, who passed it into Yusuf, making a great run into the box, controlling and calmly slotting home. The best skills and passing movement in the whole match and the players were ecstatic! Mums, dads and even opposition parents cheered – nice bunch!!
That made it 8-1. Monty on the ball again after a good tackle and he slipped Deny-Ray through. Off sped our little flyer and he was away from the defence and again slotted home beautifully – what a goal and what two dribbles and a pass before a great shot! Cheers and celebrations everywhere … And all on video – I looked at Olga and she had that guilty look on her face – the tape had run out!
The game ended 10-2 well done to the Explorers, not only for winning the game but for being great hosts, parents and players. If every game in our development league is hosted with such warmth then it will be great playing and we will enjoy every game.
We will still keep to passing and skills and hopefully 2 or 3 good moves and a couple of goals will turn into 5 or 6 good moves and even more goals. I heard earlier that our U9’s had a great introduction to competitive football too … they lost 1-3 but did themselves even more justice only conceding two late goals as they tired late on – apparently showing off their individual skills and passing well. Well done to Mark Mottram and the rest of the U9's Team Management of Stephen and Jennie O'Hara and Kerry Fernandez!
And for us ...at Sport4Kids U7’s, We are probably the happiest losers to a double figure score you could get. All the mums and dads beamed and we walked on cloud nine. We got a great team photo, everyone was so overjoyed that we had scored some goals and started using our skills in a competitive game. All the hard work and the worry turned into pride and we have now started on our S4K journey.
What was all that worry about?
I needn’t have worried at all. The game flew by and everyone had a great time. Many thanks to Tom, the Explorers and their parents. It is great when you come across such a good bunch of people. They are an example to the rest of us parents and team managers on how to host, behave and of course build the better side of the parents reputation in football.