How Do Young Players Cope in Football Academies.

SPA (FPA) Founder Mel Eves talks about the pressures and expectations placed on young players in academies.

 

On Thursday evening the first public meeting of the Football Parents Alliance (FPA) took place. A diverse group of people who together brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table regarding virtually every aspect that our youngsters can encounter during their journey through the football academy system. There were parents of players who have who are presently at club’s academies and those whose children have been through the system.

It was interesting to hear from parents whose child had progressed through the system to be a professional footballer and from those whose child followed a different path. At any one time, of over ten thousand children reported to be in the system at all ages, less than one per cent make it through to be a professional footballer. It was therefore far easier to hear from parents whose child hadn’t made the grade. The important thing from the FPA point of view was to find out where both the good and the bad practice was throughout the football system.

Mark Fogarty, Academy Manager at Solihull Moors, who has vast experience at clubs such as Blues, Coventry and Walsall, and more importantly has two sons, one who has been through the system and the other who is still in it, had this to say “There are a lot of good things that do go on at Academies, however in my opinion very early identification of young talent at 5 or 6, and selection, causes more issues than it is really worth. You simply don’t know at that age whether a child will be a Professional and with this early selection it leads to the player possibly going from 7 to 16 years without doing all the fun things that their friends do. It can lead to players falling out of love with game.”

Mark went on: “I want to say to parents that it isn’t a problem at all if your son/daughter hasn’t been recruited to a Pro club at the early ages and also to not be afraid if they are selected to say “not at this time”. If they are getting decent training and fun at their formative years this will be so crucial to them as they progress.”

One of our experienced football coaches in the studio said, very emotionally, that his son who now successfully follows a different career and lives abroad, “believes that going through the football academy system at such a young age took his childhood away from him!”

On the other hand Mike Garmston, senior physiotherapist for UK Athletics in three Olympic games, and Sonia Lannaman, Commonwealth Games Gold and Olympic Bronze medal sprinter, were also in the studio. They explained why they didn’t agree to their son Bradley going into the system until he was 13 years old. He successfully developed at West Brom’s Academy and is now a professional at Gillingham.

I will sign off with one last quote “My son came through several Professional Football Academies and as most parents do, found it very difficult to navigate the very unclear and unknown path that my child was expected to make. There was no independent body to talk to or seek advice previously. I am so glad that the Football Parents Alliance has been created by Football people who care and are happy to listen to our concerns and offer good solid advice. I highly recommend every football Parent to get behind this organization, as it is there for you and your Child to have a voice “ Please use it.”

 

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