Robbo’s Column: Criticism straight after a game may affect young players’ development

Charlton manager Karl Robinson, who still lives in Milton Keynes after his spell as MK Dons boss, has joined Celebrate:MK as a football columnist. He kicks off by explaining how parents/guardians can support their kids.

Welcome to my first column for Celebrate:MK, which I want to use to talk about the crucial role that parents and guardians play in the development of young footballers.

My daughter, Jasmine, loves playing football every weekend for Woburn Lionesses and I’m quite lucky because she trains on a Wednesday, which is generally when I’m home in MK.

I drop her off, lean on the fence to watch, then afterwards we get in the car and the last thing we speak about is football – especially if she hasn’t played well.

This might seem strange to some but, as her parent, my role is to offer her love and support.

I never criticise what she has done on the pitch as that is the job of her coach, Tony.

Don’t get me wrong, young players need constructive criticism to improve. But coaches are the right people to deliver it – not parents/ guardians.

I preach to parents and guardians at our club that the first 10 minutes of a car journey can be the biggest demotivating factor in a young player’s development.

Every child’s sole aim under the age of 12 is to impress their parents/guardians and make them proud. So when a child gets in the car and the first thing they’re told is ‘you were rubbish today, you didn’t do this today, you missed that chance today’ it crucifies them.

I’ve spoken to many people about this, even when I was a coach at Liverpool. The best thing to say is something like ‘I love you, it was good that, wasn’t it!’ to try and take their mind off any mistakes they made – or don’t even talk about football.

If you do talk about the game, make sure it is something positive. If there is something they didn’t do well, wait for the right opportunity and ask, ‘do you think you could have done better there?’

But a lot of people are very critical of their own kids because they think it’s good for them. In reality, it can actually be very bad for them.

There was a study conducted about five years ago that revealed people can handle criticism from coaches, but not from their parents/ guardians. It hits them deeper and stays with them longer.

The closer someone is to your heart, the easier it is for them to hurt you emotionally.

I see parents/guardians now when I watch Jasmine play matches screaming ‘tackle, run’ or whatever else from the sidelines. Just let the kids play!

If I can stand there with my qualifications and experience of coaching in the Premier League and say nothing during a game, you can too.

Ultimately, parents and guardians play the biggest role in a young player’s development.

The positivity you can show when things haven’t gone quite right could be the difference between making or breaking them.

This column was published in the February 2018 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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