Everywhere you go, everyone is ‘busy’. The stock response when someone enquires “How are you?” is to reply “Really busy” or “Up to my eyes in it” it has now become a boast camouflaged as a complaint. It is worn as a badge of honour with everyone seemingly addicted to ‘busyness’
I look at my own team. We train two nights per week and play a game on a Saturday. So, at worst they get 4.5 hours of practice/week. In between times I see players going to Boys Brigade, Scouts, band practice, piano lessons, tennis lessons, maths tuition, after school clubs etc etc. We have scheduled our kids to tiredness. Remembering back to my time at this age (not exactly yesterday), we were ‘latchkey kids’. We came home from school and then straight out to play football. Called in for a quick tea and then straight back out to kick the ball until we were called in, usually between 9 and 10pm. It was either a big 20-a-side game down the school park or small games in the street. Crossy and World Cup were the favourites. It was jumpers down for goals; street lights for floodlights and tic-tac toe to pick the teams. Today, it is completely different. No wonder everyone laments about the death of street football and how we don’t produce footballers with the technical skills that were learned in street football. Quoting Anders Erikkson and the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I reckon we spent around 5 hours/ night playing football. So let’s say we take four nights and the weekend adds up to around 30 hours/week. So just doing a quick calculation. We were playing around 1,350 hours annually against the current position of around 200 hours. Therefore, using Eriksson’s theory, we could get mastery in around 7.5 years compared to our current situation, if nothing changed, of 50 years!! Are we now surprised we aren’t producing Jimmy Johnstone’s, Jim Baxter’s and Kenny Dalglish’s today? These players had hit mastery by their mid-teens having come through the grassroots game.
Busyness has won the day with parents timetabling their kids to within an inch of their life. We really need to ask why is this the case? Parents will say it is about giving their kids the best chance and opportunities for a ‘good start in life’ I think we need to take a step back and think ‘Are we really?’ Surely we are trying to help produce happy and relaxed kids instead of pushing them into being stressed, anxious kids always chasing the next shiny thing.Of course, this is a real dichotomy which needs to be effectively managed. My own view is that we have just gone a little too far one way and we need to pull the dial back a bit. Can we allow our kids to opt-out from the packed itinerary and just let them play? When I mean play, I am not talking gadgets like Xbox/PS4 but outside in the fresh air getting skinned knees and muddy trousers!
I firmly believe that time is our most precious resource. We need to use it effectively and we all make daily choices on how we spend it. I just think we need to take a little pause and think how our kids are spending their time. I see a lot of great things happening around me which provide hope for our current generation. Coaches I have mentioned before like John Davies (Renegade Training) and Mark at Pro Skills Coaching are trying to bring street football back. Initiatives like ‘Dribbling to School’ and community football where all ages (including adults) are involved hark bark to our playful past. I know what Judy Murray is doing with tennis to encourage the grassroots game but also just to get kids to play sport and make their own games up. We need more of this unstructured play and less timetabled activities.
At the end of the day, most of what we do doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We are but a tiny speck in space and time within the universe so let’s not use that time pushing our kids down a road that leads to busyness and unhappiness. Life is too short to be busy, so let’s just get out and let the kids PLAY!!