Lions manager and Head of Coaching, Tony Gold has been in the thick of things having just completed his first full season running the footballing side of the Juniors alongside his role as 1st team manager.
With trials and open evenings now done, and squads all but finalised for next season, Goldy tells us why he is so pleased with progress made this season, the quality of players at Lions, and his continuing philosophy for our Junior teams:
The season just gone
All in all it I feel it was a great success. Across the board I have seen big improvements in player development and game understanding which is extremely pleasing.
Structures and people
It’s important we have the right coaches and managers in place, all working in unison. Finding those with commitment to our cause is harder work than people think, but MLL will be stronger next year all round and we’ll have better players, managers, coaches, teams – and trials will be smoother. We feel we have a clear foundation moving forward.
Balancing player development and winning
It’s the hardest challenge we all face at Maccabi London Lions, and it is fair to say we have to work a little harder than most clubs to ensure children wearing the MLL badge understand the balance between winning and development. The ethos of MLL is reflected in performance and attitude towards training and games. I think it is important to create a winning mentality but it’s equally important that it’s not a win-at-all costs mentality.
MLL’s values are clear, the focus is never on winning, and our coaches never put pressure on players to win, pressure hampers growth and development. If the children win a match our coaching team don’t discuss it. The emphasis is always placed around learning to play the game the right way and kids loving their football at Lions.
MLL want managers and parents to recognise our philosophy, winning is a by-product of the game. Unfortunately, as a club we can’t control external influences, but as our message is clear and consistent and we continue to drive home the importance of player development, eventually that culture and mentality will change.
Whilst winning is important from a confidence point of view, more often than not the age of a child can determine how important winning is to them. Winning raises confidence, self-esteem and self-belief and it creates a positive environment, providing it is handled by skilled coaches who don’t go too far the other way and become win-at-all costs.
Moving away from A Teams, B Teams in younger age groups
We must, and always will, put emphasis on player development, especially at a younger age. Moving forward the message to our managers and parents is simple, communication to children regarding their football is that their development is the fundamental priority.
This is why in younger ages we have been at pains to try and get the balance between allowing kids to develop with the right team, but also not to disrupt settled teams by chopping and changing too much. There are no trophies until you get to Under 12s, so it’s no longer a priority to have only the Whites and Blues loaded with the best players. Indeed, it’s the opposite; we want all Lions teams to have quality players with each team able to challenge others in training. Having happy, settled, and engaged little footballers is more important than trying to win a non-existent championship in the younger ages.
Playing in any team at Lions should be seen as a mark of a player’s ability, not just the White team.
I want children to develop and they do need to understand that winning is a part of the game too, but at the younger ages it’s not the most important part. The children have to achieve success in later years through developing their skills first.
It is vital that children at MLL playing U7, U8 and U9 stay fresh every year. Similarly it is just as important that our managers are also moved around where needed. We mustn’t stagnate and become rigid. Change in these age groups must be viewed as an important factor in the child’s development. In the older age groups, change must be considered based more in relation to game understanding and individual player development. Again, part of the process is changing perception, easier said than done. People don’t realise players like Harry Kane played a year below his age until he was ready to progress to the first team.
Disappointed and determination
Reality is the key word when discussing disappointment. Everyone in life whether child or adult will experience some form of disappointment. These are ingredients to forming character. Whilst it is highly unlikely MLL is going to produce the next Messi or Ronaldo, what is important to remember, is that if a child is serious about his football and he really does want to grow and develop, then he needs to apply himself correctly, being part of a team, showcasing a good attitude, desire and work ethic at training and be open and willing to learn and adapt.
Should MLL continue to produce two or three Under 18’s every year who are ready and able to make the transition to push on and play a high level of Non-League football with the club, then as far as we are concerned this is success. Having a vibrant club full of good players playing across the Adult and Masters sides gives a huge community sense to our club as well.
This year has been a year of transition which is still in progress. I believe the changes we are implementing carefully and progressively across all age groups is having a profound effect and will begin to come to fruition in two years. Already two or three current Under 18’s have been identified as candidates able to make the transition to our Men’s Saturday first team. This is the first time in four years our Junior section has achieved this, so our objectives are back on track and already starting to materialise.