Transition from Grassroots Club to Pre-Academy
My name is Glen Brunt, I am a qualified sports psychologist and I have a son who was in the academy system from age 5 to 15.
There was very little information available to me as a parent on how to manage my expectations, but more importantly there was no guidance given for me to help my son enjoy his journey.
As a consequence I made countless mistakes, unintentionally disrupting my son’s enjoyment and development. I knew I had to change and I became interested in sports psychology and general psychology, this was invaluable and changed my whole approach.
I later gained a qualification in sports psychology and begin a degree in general psychology. It is my hope that using my experiences I can help parents with their journey into academy football.
When a child enters a football academy an innocence is lost. From changing their kit in the car before playing on muddy unkempt fields, to concrete superstructure’s emblazoned with club crest aside carpet like pitches stretching into the distance.
This transition can be incredibly daunting for parent and child alike, and it is we as parents who have the ultimate responsibility in helping our child enjoy rather than endure the experience.
During those first few weeks be vigilant, look for any changes in your child’s behaviour which may indicate they aren’t coping well with the experience. Many children thrive in academies, but there are also those for whom it can be a little too much.
Academies generally begin recruiting age 4 or 5 believe it or not. This usually involves a training session once a week and requires no further commitment.
Until under 9 your child can train at any club who invites him, and this sometimes sees parents taking their child to a different club almost every night. At one stage I was travelling 250 miles a week with my son which I now know was ludicrous, but it is so easy to get swept along.
I would say 2 clubs is enough and remember your son will still be with his local side at this stage. Give your son the chance to be a kid, to ride a bike, go swimming, play with friends etc. And give yourself some time out, don’t neglect your family, be something other than a football parent.
Inevitably the clubs will begin their ‘thinning out’ process, and this can be an incredibly traumatic time for a young child. If your son is not selected don’t chastise them and be critical of their efforts, your son needs you, he needs love and understanding, be there for him.
If your son is selected for the squad both you and he will be asked to enter into a contractual agreement.It is at this stage that all other football must cease, including playing with the local team.
Congratulate your son of course but at the same time do not get carried away, just 0.01% of boys at this stage will make it to the top. Learn to manage your expectations and help your son progress with well-placed praise without being overly critical.
Remember these are children, they will make mistakes and mistakes are an important part of the learning process.
In the next article I will be looking at what signing contracts in football academies means, and what you should know before signing.
You can follow Glen on twitter @ActivateSP