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On one tour with an U12 team we stayed in a youth hostel and had a rota for cleaning the tables, doing the dishes and making cups of tea. Having little rotas like that is actually a part of growing up for some youngsters and seeing it being achieved is hugely satisfying.


I also remember taking a group from inner city Nottingham to the North East. After our games we went to the beach to play Kwik cricket. During the game I noticed one of our players just sitting playing with the sand. When I went to talk to him I found out it was the first time he had been to a beach in England. So it is little things like that about opening up opportunities to just be away from home.


You can learn so much about a group of players by taking them out of their normal environment. Players that might be very quiet in that safe environment suddenly become a lot more vocal, more confident and sometimes those who are over confident might become shyer.


Different friendship groups will form and there may be challenges in how you deal with group dynamics. You might also have to deal with some of the group suffering from boredom or homesickness.


Balvinder Shekhon, MK Dons Community Delivery Manager, explains how young people have the independence and competitiveness to thrive in challenges and competition.


Tournaments and competition are fantastic ways of creating an environment where children and young people can visually demonstrate their competitive edge, passion and their ability to perform under pressure. Children are very resilient and we sometimes never find this out about the players we coach because we shy away from competition failing to give them the opportunity to try and have a go.


Consider competition in another context such as video games. Most children spend endless hours on games consoles. They are feeding their appetite for competition and want to be the best, they are in control and will do anything to find solutions to problems they may come across.


They will play with and against other children online from different parts of the country to share information on what they did to get to the next level or achieve the highest score. The social and psychological returns are huge and all without an adult insight telling them or showing them what to do, this is independent learning in the 21st century.


Life is very competitive and sport is a fantastic way of developing core human characteristics in developing a young person and not just a player. Within the Community Football Development Department at MK Dons Sport & Education Trust (SET) we work on developing five core aspects: competence, confidence, creativity, connection and caring.


Tournaments and competition are great tools to find out more about the people you are coaching rather than the player, the returns can be very high which could have an positive impact for the rest of their lives.


Q. Back onto the technical corner, tell us more about the football benefits of playing in tournaments?


Tournaments offer a great challenge as the players will be facing teams and opponents who are different to that which they experience on a weekly basis. If you are a successful team a tournament is a great test for the players to play against strong teams from other areas.


It is safe to say every team in the world will face a team who is better than them at some stage. Tournaments are testing and challenging and it is a great opportunity to develop and practice and learn different things.


Peter Thornton, Football Development officer of the East Lancashire Football Alliance, explains how weekly indoor tournaments are thriving in the North West.


Q. Give us an insight into the tournament formats used for young players in the Blackburn area?


Each week at Blackburn Soccer Dome we have nine teams split across three courts (three teams on each pitch) playing a round of games – Team 1 v Team 2, Team 2 v Team 3, Team 3 v Team1.


On the second week the winners of each court are grouped together to play against each other, all the second placed teams play on court two and all the third placed teams play on court three.


Q. What is the minimum amount of football each team plays?


There are three teams per court per hour and each team plays three games. What we say to the managers, to reduce all the wasted time of team talks, is that games are not 20 minutes long, but instead that you have 20 minutes on court. If you want to do a five minute team talk then the game is reduced to 15 minutes.


So for example, the first game starts at 10 o’clock and finishes at twenty past, the second round of games finish at twenty-to and the third lot of games finish at one minute-to. We encourage the referees to get the games going as quickly as possible so the kids can play.


After we chatted with the coaches they accepted it and have bought into the idea. 99% of them do a little team talk before they go on court but once the kids are on the pitch they’re off and they are playing.


Q.What have been the technical development benefits of regular tournament play on an indoor facility?


Kids learn to play the game by playing it and our kids are playing every week. Whatever the weather, our kids are playing.


Very quickly new teams get the idea of the ebb and the flow of the game. There is a real range of abilities and you see kids trying new see things.


We use the retreat line when the ball is in the goalkeeper’s hands because it never goes behind and it has worked really well.


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