The kids are alright


When it comes to developing young talent, players need consistency and the chance to express themselves.

When it comes to developing young talent, players need consistency and the chance to express themselves.

I still believe that grassroots is a bit of an afterthought at the moment whereas it needs to be an area we focus on, because we need to be continuing to encourage new people to get involved in our game, we need to promote the game.

I look at other codes and you-ve got basketball players in the schools, you-ve got AFL players in the schools, you really need to reach out and connect with the community.

Kids build relationships with a particular player; my little girl comes home and goes on about a player form the gold coast blaze and I take her to the games. It-s putting yourself out there then people will want to come and support you.

Other codes are doing that, they-ve got a lot of money and they-re successful at it. If we forget about that times will become tougher and we-ll be in a position where over the years we-ve had been, outside of netball, the largest participation sport at a very young age.

In an ideal situation, every Hyundai A-League club would have an academy. I know what we-re trying to do now with have accredited football clubs and tiered competition but I still believe they should only be feeders for Hyundai A-League academies, because you-re going to get the best players if they can see that pathway.

If they can go from third team to youth team to first team, whether it-s at Brisbane, Gold Coast or Sydney, if I-m a parent of a talented kid then I know where I want to send my kid.

Gold Coast United have brought through some very good young players – Ben Halloran started the season extremely well, as has James Brown. We-ve not seen anything of Chris Harold but he-s another bright spark for them, as are Josh Brilliante and Zac Anderson – they-ve got some good young players and it-s good to see them getting game time.

The biggest thing with young players is the lack of consistency and that can be a couple of things; not enough game time and more importantly, because they-re still continuing in their development.

Even when you become a professional footballer it-s still very hard to maintain consistency week in, week out, it-s one of the hardest thing to maintain but the very best can do it.

So how do you coach that into a player? It-s guidance, it-s coaching, it-s re-emphasising all the time, it-s repetition – it-s just getting these kids into good habits on the football field.

Yes, educate them off the field also but it is also about really telling them what you-re after. You don-t want a player who-s going to produce a nine out of 10 every five weeks but the four weeks prior he-s putting in poor performances. I-d be happy with someone that-s giving a seven every week; consistency is everything.

And consistency is a fine line. We don-t want to create players that are just going to play safe. Take James Brown for example; he can create something out of nothing and that-s a strong part of his game. We want to be encouraging that – but after good actions and bit of skill, do the simple things well and people will appreciate what you-ve just done before it.

We want players, especially in attacking, creative roles, who can express themselves and the confidence must be instilled for them to be able to go and do that by their coaches. The flip side of that is we need performances week in, week out; we need it regularly.

We also shouldn-t be putting too much pressure on young players; it-s about mentoring these kids and keeping their feet on the ground. If they do that for two years and there-s strength behind the reports. Too often you hear about kids getting built up too quickly and then you don-t hear about them for a couple of years if ever.

There-s been a lot of hype about Terry Antonis, for example. Just because a player has a few games where he does great, we-re quick to build him up and all of a sudden maybe a Socceroos call-up and all that.

But all he needs is the time to establish himself in the first team, learn to do the right things every day on the paddock to enable them to be consistent every week.