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Yesterday I had some really interesting and insightful conversations with a couple of Football Scouts from Premier League Teams. It made me realise, perhaps more so than I have acknowledged before, just how the professionalisation of youth sports is getting younger and younger. The social & psychological impact of this on our children is a real concern…

The word ‘elite’ to describe 5 and 6 year olds in my opinion is really very damaging and can potentially have serious, long-lasting implications on a child’s developing identity.

Whilst organised coaching certainly has a place, kids need the opportunity to PLAY in an UNSTRUCTURED environment to develop skills such as CREATIVITY, CRITICAL THINKING and COPING.

Free play with no rules and regulations should have a place in every coaching programme, whatever the sport.

As coaches and parents we need to provide ‘space’ for our children to become CURIOUS and find ways to CHALLENGE themselves.

At Cultiv8 Academy these aspects are central to our programmes. We focus on developing PEOPLE as well as PERFORMERS.

· How often do you provide opportunities for PLAY in your programmes?

· Can your athletes be CURIOUS within their environment?

· How do you create CHALLENGE?

· Is there enough space to allow COPING skills to develop?

These are some key considerations for parents and coaches to explore within their programmes and also within the home environment. Take some time to explore HOW your children can develop these skills; incorporate and integrate them within their environments. Effective Coaching and Parenting is about finding a balance between structured and unstructured learning opportunities; finding the balance takes time, but in my opinion it’s certainly worth the investment!


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