Fun the goal for new-look game
Football season has kicked off for 2017, however this year brings big changes to Mangawhai’s youngest budding footballers with a different game style, varied playing locations and a fresh look.
Sporting Mangawhai Football Club’s (MFC) brand new blue and white kit, local children travelled north to Ruakaka’s playing fields on April 1 to meet members from Bream Bay Football Club (BBFC), the cold and fog failing to dull the enthusiasm of the 200 keen young players.
MFC vice president, Matt Rowe, says the changes are due to the clubs recent affiliation with Northern Football Federation (NFF) and their ‘Whole of Football’ programme.
“It is a more relaxed approach and concentrates on allowing the kids to fall in love with football as a sport,” he says. ”The programme is designed to make the number of players much smaller so to promote more touches of the ball for each of them. Saturday games are a reflection of how well the kids are progressing, but the eight-year-old’s and under all play for fun, not a league position like previous years.”
In late 2016 members voted unanimously to join the Northern Football Federation, adopting the internationally proven curriculum and coaching methods. The framework for training and games is vastly different from previous years, with ‘shuttles and drills’ now a thing of the past.
“We used to see some of the younger ones lose interest as they didn’t want to stand in line and do lots of drills each week, then the coach had to wrangle them back into the group,” Rowe says. “Now the training is in the form of games that might be found in a playground, only with footballs. The kids are learning while playing, all the while getting comfortable with the ball.”
Parental involvement is also encouraged especially for the youngest of players, to help maintain the children’s energy in the game.
“Having parents here is the best catalyst. How many times a day does a parent hear the phrase ‘Mum, watch this! Dad look at me!’ With parents watching, the kids are more motivated and the parents become part of the club community too.”
Bream Bay Football Club has practised NFF’s techniques for a number of years and the two clubs will rotate playing grounds throughout the season, with some games in Mangawhai, others at Ruakaka. NFF will run a Football Festival in Whangarei in the last weekend of every month, providing an opportunity for teams to compete against a wider range of players. If they excel, some children will also be asked if they would like to attend NFF skill centres.
“Despite the cold, foggy mornings, the football future for our youngest players is bright,” he says “It’s clear that football has well and truly arrived in Mangawhai.”
ACTION: A new football format means more fun on the field for the younger grades. PHOTO/Julia Wade