Germany launch training plan all Irish sports can aspire to
For decades they were known for playing the most pragmatic and unromantic football known to man. Now the Germans are the biggest dreamers and kids the game knows. And perhaps every sport, whether it’s another global like basketball, or an indigenous sport like the GAA which is relaunching its Go Games this month, should know and even emulate.
His federation is launching a nationwide series of changes to the way minors’ football will be played in the country, underpinned by a change in mentality summed up succinctly by its vice-president, a certain Ronny Zimmermann: “We must think like children, not like adults. ”
They already know what children think of the changes; as the excellent Training Ground Guru site explains, for two years, the Germans tested different formats before offering the ones that the children preferred. Essentially, they were governed by the concept of Funino as coined by German-born coach educator Horst Wein, with “fun” being self-explanatory and “nino” being Spanish for kid. In football, Funino is a lot of plays, touches, goals and dribbles – and with minimal adult interference.
So from now on, clubs and regions can – and from 2024-25 must – do without traditional leagues and matches for any child under 11.
The U6s and U7s will only play 2v2 or 3v3 matches on small pitches with four mini-goals, meaning each team defends two goals. There will be no goalkeeper or referee, and a maximum of two substitutes per team.
After each goal, both teams substitute someone and someone out. At the end of 10 minutes then you turn: the ‘winning’ team advances one ground and the losing team moves back one ground, and so on all day, or all the ‘festival’ as they wish. call, that is, during your seven games or rounds, you invariably play a team of kids of your own level for the most part.
In U8 and U9, the matches will be 3 against 3 without goalkeepers and 5 against 5 with one goalkeeper each. After 12 minutes again, you take one step forward or backward. In U10 and U11, it oscillates between 5 against 5 and 7 against 7 over two halves of 12 minutes.
It all stems from the feeling that there aren’t enough children staying and enjoying the sport and that there aren’t enough adults, even in the national team, who are at the level desired by the Federation.
After the senior side failed to progress from their group at the 2018 World Cup and the U17s finished bottom of a prestigious tournament in Portugal the same summer, Oliver Bierhoff, the scorer of that goal in Gold, who won Euro 96 and now director of the national teams federation, has hinted at the necessary changes. “We need room for individualists… Through freer training, street football should be introduced to the little ones. We need to create more space for the creativity and enjoyment of our players.
His colleague Panagiotis Chatzialexiou agreed. Among the minors, the game was dominated by physically and technically stronger children. Too many others at too young an age weren’t touching the ball enough. “Our analysis has shown that at least a third of our talent is essentially undeveloped.”
And so they have now developed this vision. Each child receives more ball touches, makes more decisions, plays against players of their own level, learns to defend themselves organically, scores more goals. And instead of having a crass blanket ban on directing, they’ve found ways that essentially eliminate it, between the little itch, and dribble the ball for restarts instead of throws and kicks.
Irish sport has made significant strides over the last decade or two to be more child-centred. While a generation like this writer was bred 11v11 from the time we walked a pitch, low numbers and small pitches are all the rage now. The GAA, through its Go Games model, has also improved its game by reducing the size of minor courts and teams.
But the German example shows that there are ways in which clubs, counties and the association itself are and can be even more creative and proactive, starting with the Go Games which are rolling out everywhere from this week. .
In Cork they try something as small as five against U7s and U8s and seven against U9s and U10s, before going to nine against U11s. As noted by one of their game development managers, Colm Crowley, seeing the German example, it will be interesting to see feedback on these changes at the end of the year, especially from gamers. children.
All sports could be inspired by it. Basketball was actually one of the first sports to have a child-centered, age-appropriate model through the mini-ball motion, but it wasn’t adopted as widely as it would have. had to be. You still have the ridiculous situation of so many kids under 13 and younger shooting the same size hoop as LeBron James, and even worse, taking a free throw to the same spot as him.
This weekend, Belgium will arrive at the Aviva as the first team in the FIFA World Ranking. Back in the 2000s, they also completely changed the paradigm of how they coached and viewed kids’ sports. They looked at studies, including one by a university that recorded 1,500 youth games and identified that in too many games, some kids were barely getting a few hits per game. And so for the U5s and U6s, they changed it to one-on-one with a goalkeeper; at this age, children lack the interest or cognitive ability to succeed. Then, after a year, they could switch to 2v2. It wasn’t until U14 that they went to 11v11 and the rankings were published. And even then, you still had to train the player more than the game or the team.
Kris Van Der Haegen, the FA’s Belgian director of coaching education, called it the Coaching Switch. From U14, the focus should be on the player – the child – and not on the team or the game.
“It’s really demanding, this change,” he admitted in an interview with this newspaper three years ago. “You really have to make a big effort to change your whole way of thinking. Where it’s your individual relationship with a player and making individual corrections. That I’m not here for my team, I’m here for every player. I’m not here to make sure we win the game. I’m here to make every player better.
And to make their experience better.
This should be everyone’s goal in children’s sports. If you’re refereeing an U12 or even U14 basketball game and you see that a kid on their first free throw clearly can’t hit the rim, bring it a little closer.
Irish sport with its Go Games has come a long way. But the example of Belgian and now German football broadcasts can go even further.