Ian Hart: Is 12-month youth football counter-productive?

Is 12-month youth football counter-productive?
Is 12-month youth football counter-productive?

As reported elsewhere in this edition, Broadwater Green has been rated the worst cricket pitch in the Sussex County Cricket League.

It’s disappointing for everyone connected with Broadwater Cricket Club and a little unfair on the parks department at Worthing Borough Council.

Head groundsman Ed Potkins works very hard on trying to maintain the required standard for league cricket but I personally feel he faces an uphill task in doing this.

In some ways, I find this very difficult, given my youth football background, but I’m astounded at the amount of local squads who appear to train, primarily on the Green, for what seems like 12 months.

The squads I was involved with, from under-seven to under-16, started in August and were finished by the end of April, although we did play in a couple of tournaments after that. It allowed the boys, the parents and the coaching staff to have a well-deserved break.

While, in my opinion, all forms of youth sport are important for both the development of the youngsters and society itself, I do fear that a ‘12 month’ footballing window for youngsters is counter-productive.

All these youngsters need a rest, both mentally and physically, physically more so because of potential injury issues, as do the good people who give up their spare time to run these squads. The youngsters also need time to pursue other sports and pastimes, including cricket and athletics.

This apparently isn’t happening and ultimately it’s not just the potential damage to the Green that’s the concern.

As chairman of Southwick FC, Roy ‘Polly’ Pollard typified everything that was good about non-league football, in an environment that doesn’t always attract people with the right motives.

I had many a drink with Polly over the years and was both impressed and buoyed with his hopes and ambitions for the Wickers. Unfortunately his life eventually took him to Spain and I feel Southwick never really got near where they could have had he still been at the helm.

Sadly we said goodbye to him last week, but my life is all the better for knowing him and I’m privileged to have his son, Darren, as one of my closest friends.

Although his tenure at Old Barn Way was brief, he was there for all the right reasons and did things properly.

As we are soon to embark on another football season, there are many in the wider non-league community that would do well to follow his blueprint in running a football club.

Professional tennis covers a broad spectrum of players, it’s not all about Andy Murray, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal with their lucrative endorsements and huge prize money. At the bottom end of the rankings, it must be a constant struggle just to cover playing expenses.

There was a noisy minority quick to criticise the lowly-ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov and Martin Kližan, who both retired from first round matches against Federer and Novak Djokovic respectively through injury at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

They should bear in mind that if both players hadn’t made it on to the court – and at least attempted to play their matches – they would have given up £35,000 each, money which could go a long way to keeping them on the professional tour.

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