And Now for Something Completely Different

The BMSL actively encourages coaches to concentrate on the development of players at the expense of the result. There may be times when the above approach may not change the nature of the contest significantly. When this happens it would make sense to stop the game as a contest as there is only so much tinkering that can be introduced.

In such circumstances other options should be considered to make the remaining time enjoyable and beneficial for the participants; Bib up mixed teams, run a penalty shoot-out, put on a combined training session, or even try some other type of football game (Risky Business, The One-Nil Game, Headers and Volleys, etc.

Fairplay is a Flexible Approach

It would be rather naïve to say that the cause of the mismatch is obvious, and by that we mean one team is better than the other. Coaches need to be aware of the cause of the mismatch and adjust their approach to the game accordingly.

Most teams have an even distribution of children born throughout the year. However, on occasion, a team may have the majority of players born in the winter months, while another is packed with players born in the summer months. This means that the mismatch may be a simple case of physicality, especially at the younger age-groups. In such cases, an obvious approach would be to introduce restrictions on how the ‘bigger’ team play; such as the number of touches each player is allowed before they have to pass the ball on; zonal restrictions on how far a player can run with the ball or maybe certain rules on how a goal can be scored.

More often than not, the mismatch is likely to be down to a few players who due to skill, size or speed are able to run past everyone else and score at will. Often these players have no concept of defense, so this presents a perfect opportunity to start the development of a rounded player, who in later years will not become frustrated as other players catch up in skill, size and speed.

Conversely some teams may have defenders who stop everything from passing. Such players often develop into great ‘stoppers’ but rarely become ‘creators’. A spell in midfield or up front will also encourage these players to explore their full potential.

And we regret that on some occasions, the reason sits a little closer to home; we got it wrong!

Whatever the cause, it won't take too much to turn the day around into one that allows everyone to benefit. All it takes is a little imagination and co-operation.

Who benefits from a Mismatch?

The answer to this is quite simply; No-one.

It is plainly obvious that a team being beaten 10-0 is not benefiting from the experience. In fact it is fair to say that every time a team gets beaten in such a way, we move one step closer to losing a young player from football.

We all know that young players develop and grow at different speeds. Losing a player now through disillusionment only deprives us from potentially finding the next great player. It is therefore everyone’s responsibility to make sure that our young people enjoy their football and never leave the game for the wrong reasons.

A mismatch not only affects those on the wrong end of a big score. There could be any number of reasons for a mismatch but one thing is certain; any team or any player finding it too easy to score is learning nothing and may even be reinforcing bad habits.

When a fixture becomes a mismatch it seems logical to stop the game and go home. However we would maintain that this is the wrong thing to do. Instead we would challenge both sets of coaches to come up with imaginative solutions to the problem that allow the players to continue their game while making it enjoyable and beneficial for all.

When is a Contest not a Contest?

Regardless of whether results or league tables are published, every match starts out as a competitive encounter between two sets of young players and will remain so, as long as it remains a meaningful contest between the two sides. When one team totally dominates, the contest is over and the game by definition ceases to be competitive.

That is why the BMSL look to match teams of similar ability. The Fairplay divisions are competition ladders where teams are grouped with the aim to make every game a true contest. Fixtures are published covering a 6-7 week period and at the end of this period each team’s performance is assessed and, depending on the results of the assessments, teams are reassigned their place in the ladder and a new set of fixtures are created. By adopting this approach, we hope to ensure that every team finds a level at where they can be truly competitive.

However, we cannot get this right all the time and sometimes a fixture will very quickly prove to be a mismatch. When this happens it is the responsibility of coaches to take action to make the experience one that benefits all those taking part.