#Letthemplay Guide

Developing Young People Through Fun & Encouragement In Sport.

Parents are an integral part of the development of their children. Our aim is to develop confident, creative, skilful football players, and we could not do this without a group of supportive and understanding parents. This information document explains to football parents how they can help us achieve our aim.

"If we want to create an environment where young players enjoy the game, have the confidence to receive the ball and try out new skills and techniques - placing them in a bear pit surrounded by screaming adults is unlikely to have the desired result"

- Dermot Collins, FA Respect Manager

1. Helping to create a positive learning environment

Parents help shape the atmosphere and environment of our sessions even before they arrive at the venue. Parents can ensure their child arrives on-time, well-fed and rested, and in the right state of mind for creative play.

Young children's perceptions of the programme (and of football in general) will be heavily influenced by what their parents communicate to them. A child's self-esteem and self-confidence can soar if they know their parent has enjoyed watching them play. Parents should try to be positive about what they have seen - give specific praise for the positive things they have seen their child accomplish, whether that be the courage and confidence to try something new, a football-decision they made during a game (to pass/shoot, to dribble, to move), or something new they learnt to do. In this way, the MoF children will grow more confident in their ability to continue trying new things. (This is beneficial for learning: We believe that learning happens when you are faced with situations for which you have no set answer).

2. Understanding what we are trying to achieve and how we think we can achieve it

We want parents to understand why we are different from other children’s programmes, and to compare MoF with the other activities their children attend. We want parents to question - how is my child learning? We want them to notice how involved and included the children are in each activity, how often they find themselves in situations they don't have an easy answer for, and how many opportunities they have to make mistakes and also to succeed. We want to provide parents of young children with high expectations, especially of children’s football programmes.

MoF believes that football in 20 years time will be very different from football of today. Football will grow, develop and change in ways we cannot imagine (just as it has done over the past 20 years). In order to be successful footballers in the game of the future, today's children will need confidence, creativity and skill. It will not be enough to only know what the adults (coaches and parents) of today know about football. This is why we believe in allowing children the freedom to make their own mistakes and to invent their own answers. (This is preferable to feeding them our own prescribed answers from the touchline).

3. Winning vs Loosing 

There is often a conflict between Winning and Learning. Let's look at an example: In a small-sided game for 8-year olds, a child has just received the ball near to their own goal. The child needs to decide what to do, and they need to decide quickly or an opponent will steal the ball. At JM Academy, we believe that one of the main factors that will influence the child's decision is the environment they are playing in.

In a high-pressure environment where the focus is on Winning, this child will be in a stressed situation and their decision will be based on what they consider is the safest thing to do. They will fear making a mistake, and they will probably boot the ball off the pitch or as far from them as possible. In these kind of  Winning-centred environments, such safe play is often encouraged and cheered by parents and coaches - and the children learn to be safe and not to take risks.

4. Nutrition, hydration and rest

A child will not be able to reach their learning potential if they have not had proper rest and nutrition.

After (and during) sessions, children need to replace lost fluids, and feed the body with nutrients. Bring a bottle of water to sessions for your child to drink during breaks and at the end of the session. Have a cereal bar or other nutritious snack ready for your child to eat at the end of the session, so they can quickly recover energy and start preparing for their next physical activity.

5. Safeguarding Children and Improving the MoF Programme

All children have the right to enjoy playing sport. If you notice anything happening during a session that results in any child being hurt, saddened or marginalised - let one of the MoF coaches know. This could be something small like children not sharing equipment properly or it could be something bigger like bullying or unsafe tackling. We need the help of parents to ensure we create a positive learning environment. Remember - parents are an integral part of the programme and a major factor in influencing the kind of learning environment we provide.

If you have suggestions on how we could improve the programme, please let us know. At the end of each term,we ask parents to complete an on-line feedback form, which gives us information on how we are doing and on how we could do better. But we would welcome feedback at any time - either by email or phone. Likewise, if you have any questions or are unsure about anything, just ask.

Tips for being a Great Football Parent:

  • Bring your child to football with the correct kit and a drink.
  • Arrive to sessions on time. 
  • Allow your child the freedom to express themselves during football sessions, and to find solutions to situations that are different from the ones you know.
  • Be positive. Don't be hard on your child for making mistakes, instead praise the creativity shown in trying to do something different.
  • Cheer and applaud all the children - not just your own.
  • Bring a cereal bar or other nutritious snack for your child to eat at the end of the session.
  • Encourage your child to play with a ball and practice skills during the week.
  • Let us know how you think we could improve.
  • Enjoy it and have fun! That's what the children are trying to do too.