Breathing fire into Welsh grassroots football

The Welsh Football Trust is the organisation charged with developing grassroots football in Wales. Here they tell Club Website about how they plan to develop the next generation of Welsh internationals.

There has been a lot of coverage in the media recently around youth development.

The English FA have undertaken a Young Player Development Review and as a consequence made 25 recommendations to improve player development structures.

A key part of the recommendations - featured in February's edition of The Club House - are that players should have increased ball contact in formats of the game tailored to their age and phase of development.

Here in Wales, the FAW and Welsh Football Trust are strong in our convictions that we have already started to address these issues in the principality.

We have played compulsory small-sided games, a maximum of 8v8 up to under 11s with no competitive leagues since 1997. In 2009, after further consultation 4v4 and 5v5 (goalkeeper included) formats were introduced formally at under 7s and 8s respectively.

This season, changes have continued with our under 9s playing 6v6. Our plans for the 2011/12 season are to complete the restructure with under 10s playing 7v7 and under 11s playing a maximum of 8v8. All mini-football in Wales remains without competitive leagues.

Alongside smaller teams we have also introduced smaller pitches to accompany the development of a more suitable playing environment. If you want to find out more about our mini football structures please visit the Welsh Football Trust website.

How will these changes develop young players?

  • Better technique – more touches of the ball
  • Enhanced concentration – always involved in play
  • Greater understanding – more learning from decisions
  • More movement – fewer players, more space to play in
  • More enjoyment – more involved in the action and more chances to score!

To support the changes the Trust and FAW have invested in one set of mini pop goals for every junior club in Wales (550) to assist them with the new format.

Alongside the changes to mini-football we have launched the Behind the Line, Behind the Team campaign promoting good parent and coach behaviour including our own version of the ‘Respect’ barrier concept.

Educating coaches of our mini football and creative coaching philosophies including the use of conditions in small sided games is a fundamental part of successfully delivering the new format.

We coordinate a national programme of free coaching workshops for all under 7s, 8s and 9s coaches to educate them about small sided games and show them conditioned games they can use in training to assist the development of player technique, skill and game understanding.

These workshops have the added benefit of contributing to revalidation of coaches’ level 1 coaching certificate; the FAW Football Leaders Award.

The next major challenge is to address the transition from mini-football to junior football. It is our intention, when our under 7s from the 2009/10 season reach under 12s (2014) that we will introduce a new transition format of the game at under 12s and possibly under 13s.

One such format could be the introduction of 9v9. We want to develop a model that works for Wales and not only helps develop better players but ensures children enjoy football and want to continue playing into the competitive 11v11 game.

These changes can only be achieved by consulting widely within the grassroots game in Wales and looking at other nations as models of best practice.

Back to March's edition of The Club House >>

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Club Website is the official website partner of the Welsh Football Trust. The partnership, which is central to the Trust’s ongoing support for football in Wales, will benefit clubs and leagues of all sizes and will enable them to host their very own website completely free of charge.

To find out more about the Welsh Football Trust visit www.welshfootballtrust.org.uk.

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