Respect campaign on ‘breakfast TV’

The FA was featured on BBC 1 TV this morning, they have just
launched a new video showing a coach (actor) abusing a referee during a junior

Paul Cooper from
was there to give his opinions on the video and why it was needed.  Give us
back our game
is a joint project between Paul and Rick Fenalgio. Rick is
highly qualified to lecture on the development of junior players; his 4v4
Manchester Untd study on junior play is famous worldwide.

The benefits he illustrated in playing 4v4 were enormous compared
to 8v8.  4v4 means a game of 4v4 with a
method of scoring other than traditional goals, i.e. smaller corner arcs.  It can also be 5v5, the outfield being 4v4 +
a goal keeper. 

Futsal is 4v4 plus a
GK – it offers in 1 single game all the benefits the Manchester Metropolitan
University highlighted.

The following is a short article he wrote, that I could hand
to junior parents I might be involved with, showing how I should organise and they
might behave.  It is attached for the benefit
of anyone that might want to read and give its content some consideration:

The Optimal Learning Environment for
Youth Football



open letter to the parents and spectators of ______________


We all want the best for our
children.  As football parents and
coaches, we want our children to learn this beautiful game, have fun while they
do so, make friends and have a season full of great sporting experiences and
memories.  For most parents (and I
include myself here), we also want our boys and girls to reach their full
potential in whatever activity they engage in. 
In short, I want my own children to develop as football players.  This is supposedly why you come to this club
and expend considerable time and money in doing so.


As a sport scientist and coach
educator at Manchester
Metropolitan University
I have access to all the latest studies on skill acquisition, coaching science,
child psychology, developmental physiology and pedagogy.  I, humbly, have also worked with some of the
leading Premier League Academies
and youth development programmes in this country.  And I like to keep things simple.


Player development is fundamentally
about two things:


1.    What players

2.    The
environment they do it


Thus, optimising player development is
all about optimising what players do at
home, in training and in matches and optimising
the environment they do it in. 
latter, the environment in which young players learn and especially, the
matchday environment, is why I’m writing to you today.


The Optimal
Learning Environment for Youth Football


What is the optimal learning
environment for young player development? 
In order to answer this fundamental question, I reviewed different
theories of learning (e.g. social, behavioural, etc) read psychology studies
about motivation, coaching behaviour and reward systems and learned about teaching
and learning methods used in The National Curriculum and multi-national
companies.  I am NO expert but found
consensus that the best learning environments for children in whatever
endeavour they were attempting (be it in sports or in school), had the
following four characteristics:


and safe

– Children learned the quickest when they could try new things, make mistakes
(and inherently learn from those mistakes) without fear of ridicule or
‘immediate’ reprimand.


supportive and positive
– Positive’ reinforcement by significant others
(parents, coaches and teachers) works ten times better overall than ‘negative’
reinforcement – for many reasons.


controlled and reasonably ‘quiet’ environment
– This allows for
concentration and analysis of the problems presented by the task(s) at hand.  Think of the learning environment in school.


emphasis upon performance and effort
the children tried the task) than upon outcome (winning or losing).  This is not to say that winning is not
important – it is.  But a much better
yardstick of player development is how the child attempted the task of playing rather than upon winning or losing –
which, to a large extent, is influenced by factors outside of the child’s
personal control.


So what does this mean in a youth
football match situation?  What type of
spectator behaviour contributes fully to achieving an optimal learning


1.    Let the
players learn for themselves. 


Please do not
offer advice or instructions from the touchline during the match.  If you wish to (and we would greatly support this) offer your own suggestions
and coaching advice, discuss these with your child after the match, possibly in
the car on the way home or over dinner. 
Find a time when both you and your child can analyse the match in a more
relaxed atmosphere. 


2.    Always be
positive from the touchline.


Personally, I like the ‘clapping only’
rule, clapping good play from EITHER team. 
If you must shout, be positive only please.  Be aware that even positive shouting
contributes to a highly-charged atmosphere that can quickly turn negative and,
in any event, is unlikely to improve learning in young players anyway.


3.    In no event,
comment upon a referee’s decision. 
Because of spectator comments and actions, youth referees are leaving the
game in droves.  If a decision doesn’t go
your team’s way, be respectful and ignore it. 
If you had no referee, good or bad, there would be no game anyway.


4.    Help us to
help ourselves.


If a spectator next to you is
detracting from the learning environment for the children by shouting or being
negative, first assess the situation.  If
the spectator appears approachable, have a quiet word, asking him or her to
‘please be more positive in his/her approach to our children’.  If the person is not approachable, please
tell a club official.  If the person
becomes negative or responds negatively to you, walk away immediately and
inform a club official.  Do not confront
the person, especially in the vicinity of children.


By following these simple rules, you
can help our club create the optimal learning and fun environment for our young
players, their families and other spectators.


Football is a sport that can be very
exciting and teach our children the values of hard work, perseverance,
individual growth, health and fitness, good nutrition and teamwork.  We believe it has the power to be a major
force for good in their young lives.  As
adults and spectators, our children have placed their trust in us to create a
healthy and positive environment for their game of football.


We have a duty of care to ensure that our
children’s rights – and the rights of their team-mates and their young
opponents – are upheld.  Our children are
counting on us.


Many thanks,


Rick Fenoglio

Manchester Metropolitan University and

Give Us Back Our Game!