There are five male members of my family who are under the age of 14. They go to four different schools, not one of them goes to a school that has a football team.
You can’t blame the decline of our national game on the education system and its failure to promote sport over the last 10-15 years but it has a huge part to play. In days gone by a schools reputation went on how good their football team was rather than how well they did in the exam league tables. Schools were proud of the players they were producing and keen to keep track of how many of their young men “made it.” I don’t know when it happened but very suddenly school football teams started to disappear. I remember my nephew starting secondary school and telling me that this was the first year that the school weren’t having a team because the headmaster didn’t think they needed one. I even offered to help run the team but was politely turned down and told that school football at that establishment was a thing of the past.
I know why this happened though and I just can’t get my head round it. Parents, teachers and head teachers became very namby pamby with the kids and instead of promoting a healthy culture of competitiveness amongst the pupils they made the transaction to making every pupil a winner. I could not believe my eyes at one sports day to see every child in a race getting a medal. There was no incentive to come first, second or third like there was in my day. What kind of message is that sending to our kids. It goes totally against the fundamentals of any sport. You play or take part in a sport to win, not to take part. The powers that be are guilty of breeding a culture that imparts a softness to all. We need to bring back the ruthlessness whereby the fastest kid, the one who could jump furthest or the best footballer in the school was rewarded. No wonder our game is in the condition it is in at the moment where we scrape a result at home to Lithuania. No wonder young men would rather go for a Nandos or a sunbed than come to football training with their local team. We have totally excluded a whole generation of kids in Scotland from what it means to win, what it feels like to achieve in sport.
It can be rectified easily and with a little bit of effort. Stop feeding children with nonsense about it being about taking part and not about winning. It’s ok to tell a child that they can do better next time if they came last, that’s what being an educator is about. Teaching not only academic topics but also the facts of life. If someone is good at sport then promote and celebrate it to other kids. It’s the only way to create healthy competition. If your school doesn’t have a football or netball team then start one up. Find a set of strips and start playing other schools. Get kids interested in competitive sport again. How many times have you saw a school on tv with a Premier League star like Harry Kane or Wayne Rooney going back to speak to their old PE teacher. It happens a lot! You could be that person who spots some raw unnoticed talent. Don’t leave it to the local boys club or Pro Youth team. Sometimes a kid doesn’t have a parent to get them involved in a team initially. Playing for your school is a great way for a coach to notice you. It’s also the beginning of your football network amongst your peers and helps you with contacts when you become an adult. The system works and it has always worked.
We need to get back on track with our kids and sports. The new generation of player coming into the amateur game just isn’t the same as what is just about to retire for good. For the sake of football in Scotland please give these kids a chance.
Toughen them up