Monday, 2 December 2013

How Little Kickers began!

Interview begins on page 32!

Little Kickers - Football for kids, made by big kids!

Can Little Kickers score the all important goal? Find out in the video below!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Gary Lineker: Pushy parents

Gary Lineker: Pushy parents screaming abuse from the sidelines are killing their kids’ love of football

New Statesmem

It’s the pushy parents screaming at little Liam from the touchline, making him feel clumsy and putting him off his stride, who are partly to blame for the decline of English footie, says Gary Lineker.

There are three questions that I am asked on a regular basis: what is your favourite flavour of crisps? What were you doing when you pointed at your eye and looked at the bench when Gazza cried in the 1990 semi? And why do England always disappoint in major tournaments?
This is no place for brand endorsement but: salt and vinegar. Second, in the West Germany game, I looked at Bobby Robson and pointed at my eye, meaning “Watch him” because I knew that Paul was a very special and vulnerable footballer and needed care.
Finally, before I begin with my reasons why England disappoint in major tournaments and the possible fixes, let me point out that this is not going down the “Things were so much better in my day” route. They weren’t!
We have never produced, proportionally, as many technically efficient players as most other countries. There was a time when our indomitable spirit and work ethic saw us through. Alas, the rest of the world now more than matches us in the less than beautiful side of the game, while we still linger exasperatingly behind when it comes to skill, flair and that most necessary of footballing basics – maintaining possession.
Yes, there are exceptions, and some eras are more productive than others. Italia ’90 immediately springs to mind, with Gascoigne, Waddle, Beardsley et al; 1996 was another vintage group, with Gazza still hobbling around alongside Teddy Sheringham and friends. Then there was the “golden generation” that never quite managed to grab even bronze.
These wonderfully gifted individuals came through in spite of the maligned and archaic system of development we’ve had in this country, certainly notbecause of it.
And here we come to the crux of the matter. Until very recently, we never taught our youngsters properly. We have never taught our coaches to teach our youngsters properly. And we wouldn’t have had enough coaches, even if we had taught them how to teach our youngsters properly. Countries such as Spain, Germany and the Netherlands (the ones that consistently produce fine footballers) all have ten times the number of qualified coaches as England.
I am writing not to crush you with pessimism but to offer some degree of hope. Change is afoot. In very recent times, the FA has made some long-overdue but crucial changes that should make a drastic difference to the kind of player we develop.
In this country, since footballs made from pigs’ bladders were whacked into goals without nets, we’ve played on full-size pitches. Whatever our age. This is ludicrous. Sevenand eight-year-olds valiantly trying to cover the same acreage as those grown-up chaps in the Premier League is absurd. To add to the lunacy, a little goalkeeper, barely out of nappies, has to stand between posts that are eight strides apart – adult strides – and under a crossbar more than twice his height.
It’s obvious, then, why we have a long-ball culture: the big lads who can kick it furthest are the ones that stand out. What chance for the diminutive yet gifted midfielder? No chance of him developing his tiki-taka football. The only way to get to the other end of the pitch is to belt it and then belt it again.
This madness is only exacerbated by the maniacal parents on the touchline spouting nonsense at their children. The competitive nature of most mums and dads is astounding. The fear they instil in our promising but sensitive Johnny is utterly depressing. We need a parental cultural revolution. If we could just get them to shut the fuck up and let their children enjoy themselves, you would be staggered at the difference it would make.
Having four boys myself, I have stood on the sidelines of countless games, spanning many years. Oh, the drivel I have heard, the abuse I have witnessed, the damage I have seen done. Promising young players barked at by clueless dad. “Don’t mess with it there.” “Just kick it.” “Stop f***ing about.” I could go on. I have seen a father pick his son up by the scruff of the neck and yell in his face: “You’ll never make it playing that crap.”
Occasionally, I’ve intervened and expressed my view that they are being a hindrance. The reactions have varied from acknowledgement and genuine interest to complete disgust that I should stick my nose in.
Incidentally, I never shouted anything other than encouragement from a touchline . . . to both teams. My father was generally reserved on the touchline but he did lose it once after I swore at a referee when I was about 14. He got the coach to take me off. I learned a lesson that day.
Some of the academies around the country have introduced a rule that parents must be quiet and only applaud. This has allowed talented young players to express themselves on the field, to take people on, to try a trick, all without the dreaded, predictable rubbish cascading into their ears. This is a very good thing. Who cares who wins an under-eights game? Who cares if a youngster makes a mistake? It’s how we learn.
We are creating a generation of players who are living in a world of Fifa pixels, who think they know everything about the game, yet who have never enjoyed the explosion of joyful emotions that comes with the scoring of a goal, the immense satisfaction of a defencesplitting pass (midfielders assure me that this is true), the feeling of power that comes with the winning of a crunching tackle (I made that bit up), or the agony/pleasure – depending on your disposition – of standing in a wall and getting one in the bollocks.
Things are gradually changing. Academies are silencing Mum and Dad; the FA has brought in smaller-sided games with smaller pitches and goals (oh, how the parents moaned at that); the coaching is improving. The revolution has begun.
We must keep an eye on the delicate aspects of the beautiful game, the nuances that make it beautiful: the inexplicable moments of grace created by vulnerable geniuses such as Paul Gascoigne. We need to view our young players like Sir Bobby did Paul, with patience, nurturing and understanding. Then perhaps we will see a revolution in the way England play and we might get beyond tearful semifinals against well-nourished Germans. One day, one day, we shall rise again.
Now where did I leave that packet of salt and vinegar?

Do you agree with Gary, why not leave a comment below?

Monday, 23 September 2013

The method in our madness


We told you not to read this!  You never listen do you?  Isn’t it lucky that your children haven’t picked up that trait!

A frequent comment we receive before new starters attend our classes, is

‘we apologize in advance if our little-one doesn’t listen’ or ‘we are just worried as he/she is not very attentive just yet’.

An even more frequent comment whilst leaving our classes is

‘how on earth did you get so many children listening at once?’ or ‘are you from Hogwarts?’

Now both of these latter questions can be answered quite simply.  To answer the first…

We would love to tell you one simple tip that we use, however it’s unfortunately not that simple.  It is a series of intricate detailing that has been developed over a long period through tried and tested means. Usually during a sport related session the equipment becomes the focal point, the football, the rugby ball, the shuttlecock.  Once that focus has been exhausted, the children lose interest and their levels of engagement will slowly disappear because the focus is constant on the same mundane object.

Now, we are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we have put some shiny multicolored alloys on it, that can be swapped quicker than the wheels on an F1 car, to keep things fresh and exciting!  One of our many techniques, without wanting to give away the entire ingredients to our secret recipe, is that the ball becomes the window into their imagination.  The ball becomes a bounty full of exciting and creative ideas. The ball could be a cannonball fired from a rival ship, it could equally be a dinosaur egg that the children have to carefully place into its nest without waking the T-Rex.

The main difference between young kids and adults is that children will accept and listen. As we get older our imaginations are hauled out of us.  As children, we are encouraged to use our creative minds, but as we grow older we are continually told to ‘grow up’ or become more ‘mature’.  We harvest the enthusiasm and creativity that our Little Kickers’ naturally possess, and use it to create fun and exciting sessions.  A good friend of ours once said ‘as a child you are eagerly taught to walk and talk, then once you’ve achieved that you are told to shut up and sit down!’  Slightly exaggerated I am sure, but ultimately the point is there. 

The training that we complete with coaches equips our team with the tools to tackle many different scenarios, personalities and temperaments.  We love coming up with fun ways to encourage children to be confident in themselves, and teaching them how to build relationships with others.

In response to the second question, are we from Hogwarts?  I am afraid we are not allowed to disclose that information, direct orders from Dumbledore. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

An update from Julian, our master franchisee in Ecuador!

Bringing a soccer program from the country where soccer was born to Latin America, the continent where more kids play soccer than anywhere else in the world, has been a great hit.
Started in September 2012 in Ecuador, Little Kickers has become for nurseries, schools, parents and kids a great addition to the local football scene.

Soccer in Latin America and in Ecuador is socially really important and has grown more over recent years due to the amount of Latin American professional soccer players that are playing all around the world.  Soccer players like: Messi, Aguero, Sanchez, Valencia and many other great players are our kids' superheroes. 

Little Kickers has got off to a fantastic start in Latin America and it is growing steadily.  In the next few months PerĂº will have Little Kickers and in the close future Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil and many other countries will be able to share the benefits of Little Kickers program.

No pressure, lots of fun and love for soccer is what we do!
Let´s go Little Kickers!!!

by Julian Mora, Little Kickers Director of Latin American and Master Franchisee for Ecuador

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare

Thank you to David Homer (Coach Dave and Little Kickers franchsiee) for this brilliant article! -

Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself 'You know what, I don't really want my child to go to University when they're eighteen, it would be better if they went when they're fourteen and a half. They're so bright and much better than most of the others in the year'?

Unless you're suffering from delusions of grandeur and over zealous parental pride of a monstrous magnitude then the answer is most likely to be a firm no.

Though a fourteen year old may be just as, or more intelligent than an eighteen year old academically or technically, they will still be several years behind socially, psychologically and physically. Statistically 25% behind in terms of age. That's 25% less time on earth and 25% less life experience.

Common sense so far. Stating the blindingly obvious. Of course it is.

Sadly the same sound logic is often absent in the case of our children's sporting activities. So many well meaning and otherwise intellectually rounded parents are hell bent on their child reaching 'the next level' regardless of age, physicality, mentality or social literacy.

Why? That's an answer for parents willing to look for within themselves. Maybe they failed in sport and want a second chance through their own child, it could be blind parental pride or even keeping up with the Joneses. But whatever the reason, reaching 'the next level' is little short of an obsession for some Mums and Dads.

Only last week a parent of a child who'd been with us at Little Kickers since they were two thanked the coaching team for all we'd done, and then proudly proclaimed their child would be leaving Little Kickers as 'They were ready for the next level'. I thanked them for their kind words and then enquired what 'the next level' actually was. The answer given was 'playing outside with the big boys'. The child in question turned four this May. He's technically very good, physically average, and socially and psychologically he is typical of his age.

The English obsession with playing outside on muddy pitches in cold weather is another can of worms altogether. There is no good or bad place to learn football. Every surface has it's pros and cons. It's irrelevant. But the notion that children who play outside are of a higher level than those who play inside is a prehistoric thought pattern to apply.

So when little Bertie (name changed to protect the innocent) goes to play 'at the next level' he will be alongside five, six and seven year olds. I'm no mathematician but that's an age difference which is easily 25%. Bertie having enjoyed a ball mastery coaching ethic at Little Kickers will be technically sound in this company. He may even be better than many of the other older children. I imagine this will be a source of great delight for his parents. But how will he cope socially, psychologically and physically?

Every week an important part of running Little Kickers sessions and indeed any coaching is to evaluate each child's needs in accordance with the FA's excellent 'Four Corners of Coaching Model'. The following attributes are divided into four and considered of equal importance in the development of all young footballers. In no particular order they are;

1. Technical

2. Physical

3. Social

4. Psychological

These four corners apply from walking age straight through to the professional game. Though it's only recently with the advocation of sports science the latter mentioned two are being given more of the attention they deserve.

Think of your favourite players. Two of mine are Best and Gascoigne. Both technically and physically brilliant initially but ultimately declined at the expense of social and psychological neglect in their development and coaching. The four corners must work coherently like an orchestra to make a complete footballer. There's a popular theory in coaching that you coach the person first and the player second.

How many parents get excited about the day their child realises there's no Father Christmas? Surely most dread the loss of innocence and find the thought rather depressing. Yet in the case of football/sport so many parents want to deprive children of their right to being a child via their craving to see them replicating a game they watch played by multi millionaire professional elite athletes on a Saturday afternoon.

And there's nothing wrong with natural competition, life is competitive and children naturally are too. This should be encouraged of course. But not at the expense of their childhood. Children don't stay little and sweet for long. They grow into cynical, hardened adults like us. Why on earth would we want to accelerate this process?

Children are not little adults. They are children.

Children learn and develop best through guided discovery, finding their own solutions, imaginative play and most importantly fun, fun and more fun! That's not to say their coaching shouldn't incorporate a strong element of order, discipline and routine.

At younger ages of development is arguable that and social psychological development is even more important than technical and physical. And it's refreshing to see more and more parents are actually requesting children stay in their existing group for these reasons. Hopefully there is a sea change happening in our culture towards this logic. A logic which has prevailed in lands far more successful at football than ours for many years already.

So in the words of Oscar Wilde "The best way to make a child good is to make them happy".

What Oscar omitted to add to this quote was "Not yourself!"

So next time you thing about how your child should be progressing at a faster speed than they already are naturally, maybe remind yourself of the old fable about 'The Tortoise and the Hare'. We all know who won in the end. And we all know how important it is to win. But in the end. Nobody wins at the start line. Football development is a marathon not a sprint. Don't let your child be the burned out hare!

Thank you for reading. All feedback always welcome. Please feel free to comment here or tweet me @CoachDave_

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Little Kickers showing FA Legends how it should be done!

16 of our Little Kickers proudly took to the pitch during the half time of the FA Legends Vs Army FA match held at Madejeski Stadium. The FA kindly invited Little Kickers to take part in the match after recent meetings held with FA members. 

It was a brilliant day and needless to say the children had a lot of fun. Goals from Tore Andre Flo, Kevin Kilbane, Ben Shepherd and Jan Age Fjortoft gave an FA ‘Legends’ side a 4-2 win over the Army FA at Reading’s Madejski Stadium. Some great players including Matt Le Tissier, Gary Neville, Gareth Southgate were all on show, our Little Kickers appeared very impressed! 

At half time, our Little Kickers took to the pitch accompanied the sound of our Little Kickers advert echoing around the stadium. The team being led out by our very own mascot 'Lenny' posed for a team photo and then lined up to score some 'moving penalties'.  They scored an unbelievable amount of goals much to the crowds delight.

The Army side, coached by England Under-21 Head Coach Stuart Pearce, twice went ahead against Roy Hodgson’s team of predominantly retired players. However, the Legends battled back to secure a win in a match which helped raise funds for the Team Army Sports Foundation and the Royal British Legion, while it also helped mark 125 years of the Army FA.

A big thank you to the FA and to Army FA representatives who made this happen. A huge thanks also goes to England Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce who very kindly made a presentation to all of the children giving them each a Nike shirt and Football to remember the event. 

Further to this, Little Kickers was invited to the fundraising dinner held at the stadium. It was an amazing opportunity to speak to the likes of Roy Hodgson & Stuart Pearce, we also managed to have a chat with David Bernstein (FA Chairman). It was amazing to know that some of the highest bodies in English Football had heard of us, and it was a great honour to hear that they think we are doing excellent work. High praise indeed. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the day. We look forward to working with the FA and the Army FA again in the not to distant future... watch this space! 

Little Kickers supporting 'Love In A Box'

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

We're delighted to announce that Little Kickers are through to the finals of the 2013 "What's On for Little Ones" Awards. 

The winners are decided through an X Factor-styled public vote!  So if you like what we do, please spend a minute voting for us - our coaches work much harder than some of the X Factor contestants and voting in this competition is FREE!  Simply click on the link below, you will be taken through to the voting page on the WO4LO website where you can register your vote. It honestly only takes a minute!

Voting for WOFLO  

We're nominated in the "Best National Preschooler Activity 2 - 5 years", "Best National Activity for children aged 5 to 12" and "Best Exported Activity for Children" - and you can vote in all these categories with just one click on the link above. 

A win in these categories would give an amazing boost to all the hardworking coaches and franchisees who put such passion into running Little Kickers classes each week!

Some of our local coaches and franchisees are also nominated in other categories, such as "Most Outstanding Activity Leader" so please have a look to see if your local Little Kickers team members are also in there, and show your support by voting for them!

Thanks so much - your support is, as always, really appreciated 

On your marks, get set, VOTE

                                             LITTLE KICKERS NEEDS YOUR VOTE!
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