Why ‘empowering’ AFC Wimbledon let their youngsters call the shots

04 May 2024 07:00
Player-led matches are one of the fresh concepts at academy that aims to give players tools for success beyond footballA few weeks ago AFC Wimbledon Under-18s won 4-3 at Cheltenham Town in the Youth Alliance Cup. The visitors went 3-0 down but did not panic, tweaking tactics and adjusting systems before storming back. It was a wild contest, a remarkable turnaround, but what was even more impressive was Wimbledon were in effect managerless for the day, with the game designated as one of their player-led matches, a pioneering concept at the heart of their academy programme. Apart from booking the team bus to Gloucestershire, the onus was on the youngsters to organise everything and cope with the challenges: absorb the pressure, problem-solve on the spot and play.It is an idea that hands the initiative to players and one Wimbledon do a few times a season from the under-nines to under-18s. Safeguarding rules differ between age groups but a physiotherapist is always present, as legally required. “When you see 10-year-olds trying to dissect the game, looking at formations, telling people what position they are going to play in, it is empowering,” says their academy manager, Michael Hamilton, who has been asked to share the concept at Premier League and Football Association conferences. “Life is not easy. There are going to be ups and downs. You might get released when you think you shouldn’t, you might not get a run of games. It is about having a bag of tools you can go into and say: ‘What do I need today?’” Continue reading......read full article

Source: TheGuardian