FA’s Nick Levett answers youth football questions

The Football Association’s Nick Levett took part in a Twitter takeover this week to answer questions on youth football.

The FA’s National Development Manager for Youth and Mini-Soccer answered questions on youth football in a 30-minute session on the FA’s Twitter account using the hashtag #YouthFootballQA.

Matters up for discussion included summer football, Futsal, competition in youth football, position-specific coaching and investment in grassroots football.

If you missed the session first time around and would like to read what was said, don’t worry, you don’t need to trawl through the FA’s Twitter timeline – here’s the Q&A transcript in its entirety:

@TorontoSA: Whats your #1 practical tip on being a “Positive Coach”?

Nick Levett: The most important thing is being ‘player centered’ and building the needs of your coaching around what the players need.

@HillsboroPumas: FA ban competitive leagues for mini soccer, but cup games settled on pens, so cruel if you are the 1 to miss, fair?

It’s about getting the balance between win at all costs and no competition. The game has winners and losers.

@Mitchp00: With the focus on environment why not climate? Kids dont learn in cold wet conditions, a change of youth football calendar?

Yes, I agree. That’s something which could be an option now, playing mini-soccer from March to November.

@oldwoodsFC: How do we get youth players to move into adult football? There’s a drop off and a gap that needs to be bridged.

Making links between youth & adult leagues is vital and stepping stones of U18 and U21 leagues are important.

@AfcGoenka: What do you look for in young players?

Firstly, a love of the game, desire to get better, a good learner and grit and determination.

@offthepostnews: Also, opinions on the UEFA Youth League and U21/U18 BPL Leagues. Have they been a success in your eyes?

Anything that keeps players in the system longer to delay decision making on talent has to be good for the game.

@DCLECoaching: How strongly would you value position specific coaching if the service was readily available at a club?

Certainly valuable as players get older, but at younger ages, rotating positions is massively beneficial.

@LiamGiles96: Do you agree there is a missing link between academy and grass roots football? If so, what is the solution?

Yes, research indicates amount of informal play is difference between academy kids & grassroots kids, we need to value play.

@Alex_Harvie: What’s next for the YDR [Youth Development Review]? We’ve seen pitches/balls relative to age, but how else are we developing players?

We need to let the new changes settle in whilst developing a culture of change.

@FozzieHere: If you had unlimited budget, what would be the 1 thing you’d spend it on?

I’m torn between 3G pitches across the whole country and free coaching courses for everybody. Both are vitally important.

@synergy_print: Would encouraging young footballers to take up Futsal help improve their technical development?

Futsal is definitely part of the plot! It’s a great tool for player development and across grassroots and professional game.

@richoxcoach: Do you think there is now so much info available 4 coaches that there is a greater risk of losing focus on the player(s)?

Absolutely, we have to maintain focus that it is about players learning, and our teaching and practices just help this along.

@Blackscorpio7: Would appreciate advice on how subs should be made at junior level. How can everyone read off same hymn sheet?

Have a conversation with the players about the team’s philosophy. Is it equal playing time? Or the best kids play more?

‏@jonnylindsay__: Are youth football leagues aimed to try develop young players’ skills or just to try make them have fun?

Should be both!

@Lewis31m: Do more English players need to go abroad, like other top countries?

I think players should take any opportunities that come their way to broaden their training experiences and also life experiences

@4_Burrman: What’s your main concern? Educating the youngsters or educating the coaches?

Ultimately, developing better players is part of the @FA’s role and this goes hand-in-hand with developing better coaches.

If you have a question on youth football not covered in the Q&A that you’d like to see answered, please leave it in our comments section below. You can follow Nick Levett on Twitter at @nlevett.

Main image courtesy of TheFA.com.

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Dan Pope
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Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. Edward Wyatt on April 28, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I have heard that goal difference is to be done away with in youth football,why? How will it be possible to sort out promotion and relegation if more than two teams have the same number of point?Also I have heard that under 11and 12 teams will not play competitive football,these players are not young children,they are not playing mini soccer,they need competitive games ,ready to progress to 11 aside games.Many thanks E Wyatt.

  2. Kate slader on April 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    In response to Edward wyatt ‘s.. No they are not youn children, butt they are far from young adults. Competition is as everything else beneficial if managed. It’s all good for teams who are battling it out at the top of the league, but to keep players involved in the weaker teams you cannot have a win no matter what. Not if you want those players to come back week after week without winning a game.
    After a very tough first season under 12s I have come across coach after coach who no matter what they say at the start if the game want nothing else but to go out there and put as many goals past the other team as possible. To shout at boys winning 15-0 “don’t let them score” is discraceful.
    Many coaches don’t even entertain a player who can’t play – as he risks lowering the quality of the side and scoring less goals. It is a game and it should have winners and loosers of course, but if you have a player interested in football then they should have the opportunity to play. There is plenty of time for them to be “written off” we don’t need to do it when they are 12 years old. Who knows what their potential as ac15 year old may be. It may still be nothing but at least they have played, enjoying sport and getting fit.
    Competition and expectations need to be managed responsibly to make sure more boys and girls play football.

  3. Christopher Sampson on May 9, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    hi, I coach and I am assistant manager to a u10’s football team 2013/2014 with mixed ages, youngest being 8. Next season we have been told we can not keep the team together by the league, because all players must be 11 or at least 10 for under 11yr football, if that happens we will only have 8 eligible players, so the team will have to fold. please can you help or give some advice.

  4. John on May 31, 2014 at 10:32 am

    A coach / manager from an under 7 team, sent an email to the parents of his team explaining the team policies and approach. As part of that email there was a statement that refers to how the team has been progressing in the last 2 pre season tournaments that the team took part in…..

    ‘The team are already up there competing with the other clubs which can be seen from their records in 2 tournaments (7 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss, scoring 33, conceding 2) but we are not implementing a win at all cost ethos’

    The email was sent with best intentions but we would like to know if this is classed as publishing results which the FA has said can’t be done or whether comments like this are perfectly valid.

  5. Wil on January 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Am I wrong?
    I coach a u12 boys community team who will finish the season with a 9-5 record, best we’ve done in 3 seasons, with all games very close. However, our final game coming up is one I’ve considered forfeiting out of protest.
    Why? The competition that game is a team that should be playing at a higher level, unbeaten all season, winning all games by 10 or more goals. The game result will have no bearing on where either team finishes in the standings, so I do not know how my boys could possibly benefit?

  6. Paul Burkmar on March 28, 2015 at 11:43 am

    A basic question but I cannot find the answer anywhere. To manage my boys U10’s team next year, does the manager have to have any formal coaching qualifications as opposed to enthusiastic volunteer?

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