TRANSFORMING CHILDREN INTO FOOTBALL STARS OF THE FUTURE: AN INSIGHT INTO THE ROLE OF THE UNDER-8 COACHES


Coaches sometimes joke that there are only two times when they feel stressed-day and night. Although that story represents the extreme case, certainly all coaches experience moments where they question their decision to coach. Being a coach of the U-8 football team is no small task. These are the men behind the kids shaping their career and chipping away the rough edges.

Mr. Leslie Machado is the most renowned football coach of the Don Bosco School, Matunga who is the heart and backbone of the U-8 football team. The man responsible for assembling, selecting and creating the U-8 team. He is strict but has a jovial nature of handling these young toddlers who are hardly 6-7 years of age. He believes that U-8 is the most crucial age category for spotting raw talent and then eventually nurture them into fine players. According to him kids of U-8 age category should be not pressurized and allowed to kick the ball freely till they develop a sense of understanding for the game. He carefully selects kids primarily on the basis of their speed and natural kick. Patience and motivation is his key to successfully managing these youngsters. Even though he is strict, he is like a friend to his students who are so fond of him. Mr. Machado gives credits to the parents for bringing their kids regularly for practices.        

The Footfun Football academy has a number of programs for various age groups. The U-8 category of the academy is coached by Mr. Dominic Rozarrio who believes that in order to start with these kids, firstly you need to remove their fear for the ball. Since football is a contact sport, fear has a role to play among kids which needs to be removed .Once this fear is removed they teach them the basics like control on the ball, no using hands to touch the ball, try to touch the ball with the feet etc. He believes basics form an integral part of u-8 program. The kids are divided into groups of three each, one comprising of good players and the other group having average and below average players who are allowed to play together to develop understanding amongst them. The best are thereafter promoted to the next age category or division. The FFA academy has a u-8 football team for girls too where the girls are divided into groups of four with one of them being talented amongst them while the others will be learners. Mr.Rozarrio says that children should be motivated so that they build confidence in themselves to stay strong.

The Kenkre Champions League is an excellent initiative for grassroots development providing such a big stage for youngsters to portray their talents. Mr. Wairokkpam Pari is the coach of the u-8 host team and he says that it is quite difficult to coach kids as it takes time to build a sense of understanding and positioning about the game in them. According to him, kids should not shouted upon and it is a general tendency for kids to avoid practices after a  injury, which sets in a fear in them for the game. Cheering them up will boost their confidence. He strongly believes that U-8 is the right age category to impart knowledge of football in kids and tournaments like Kenkre Champions league will inculcate a level of seriousness in these kids.

A coach sees determination in a player and takes him where he cannot see himself. A coach teaches you to accept a defeat graciously and a victory with full humility.