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Levett believes tournament football has the potential to be a superb learning environment if the focus is kept solely on the children's needs


This summer sees the excitement of a World Cup in Brazil, one of the most glitzy and glamorous of world football nations. Whilst we go into this tournament as an England team with moderate aspirations (but we would still love to win it!) it will no doubt capture the imagination and ignite a passion in young people to take part in tournament football.


The thing about tournament football at youth level is that it has the potential to be a superb learning environment for young players but often becomes a negative experience as adults focus on the winning. One of the top things children say about why they participate in football is that they love to compete and they enjoy the thrill of competition. However this is balanced out with one of the top reasons they stop playing sport; because of the adults’ over-emphasis on winning. And this is something we need to consider closely.


This season we have introduced flexible competition, where children can still experience the importance of winning and losing, still feel the highs, the lows, the exhilaration and sadness that all get associated with the game we know and love. However, this is about making sure that they experience a children's approach to competition, not an adult's approach.


Leagues now have the flexibility to organise football for children in the primary school age group which involves periods of development matches and time to learn the game, interspersed with periods of competitions, where they might play for a trophy or two.


These new approaches to competition, have given young people the chance to learn to win and lose but in a child- appropriate way. We are dipping their toe in the water of competition and then building this up as they get a little older and can start to understand and interpret this in more meaningful ways.


For example, one league in Cornwall have introduced a Champions League where all the teams play in small round-robin groups before going through to knockout stages. Feedback has been so positive they now do this up to U13 and local leagues are also looking to employ a similar strategy.


Leagues can then use the scores from the blocks of development matches between competitions to get teams in the right groups. No team wants to have games that are too easy or be beaten heavily every week so there is a crucial role still in the administrators making sure teams get pitted evenly against others.


This isn't saying what we have doing has been wrong for years, we are saying this might be a great way of engaging more kids in the game we love, for longer, in a more modern way. We have to move away from the win-at-all- costs culture in this country, we quite simply have to. It is ruining the game for everyone, stifling development and hindering enjoyment.


But tournaments are a strange time for young players. It creates an environment that heaps a huge amount of pressure and stress yet fun and enjoyment in one day. It sees children and young people experience a whole season's worth of football crammed into one day and personally, I love them! These can be fantastic learning opportunities for coaches and players of all ages.


So, here are a few things to think about on how to get the best out of the day.


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