Developing the Future

The hot topic on everyone’s mind at the moment is developing the British game as we know it. The climate at the minute is a fairly pessimistic. If you keep up with the various communities, the consensus is that the game isn’t developing, but is instead declining. This was then emphasised by 2 teams forfeiting within 2 weeks. However, BAFA have taken steps to address the GB program by releasing the details of their ‘Future Initiatives’ Program. Details on the page were fairly basic:

What is GB Futures?
This initiative targets players aged under 23 and under 19 who are currently not participating in National Programme activity and is part of an endeavour to bridge the transition from youth to senior international football.

It aims to give BUCS students and young National League players a structured pathway into the BAFA National Programme, supporting talented athletes in their desire to be part of elite performance. Identified players will be asked to focus on strength and conditioning, nutrition and the fundamentals of skill development.

How does it work?

The BAFA National Programme team are now gathering data and carrying out a talent identification exercise to compile a list of players to invite to a workout for their age range later this year. Current coaches from the GB men’s and U19 contact programmes will be involved in the scouting and identification of talent.

Part of the process is already underway, with coaches having already scouted the BUCS Finals earlier this year and recent youth games – resulting in several players who participated in the BUCS Final attending a GB Lions Men’s Contact team practice last month.

In addition to scouting, talent identification will be achieved through collaboration between National Leagues and BUCS teams and BAFA National Programme staff. A recommendation process will be put in place, similar to the one already successfully used earlier this year for head coaches to make recommendations to GB Men’s Contact Head Coach Mike Callan.

The aim is to extend this initiative to all other National Programme teams, starting with GB women’s contact next year. 

National Programme Assistant Riq Ayub commented: “Working across all programmes on talent identification and support for our players is core to the elite athlete process. The transition in development through growing skills and experience will be managed in a positive way with this initiative. We’re also providing an opportunity for coaches to work more on fundamental skill sets.”

Firstly, let’s look at the why? The clear why is that the BAFA board feels that the current transition from Youth to Senior contact is fairly large. This may be for a number of reasons, the low participation levels currently in youth compared to adult contact, the lack of youth coaching, there could be any number of reasons, but this is something that hasn’t been really disclosed. The community tends to speculate on what improvements could be made, but often fails to discuss the scenarios in detail with adequate solutions. The advantage we have as members of the community is that we are able to postulate our theories and solutions without implementing either. This makes things fairly easy for us, where throw away comments are taken no further.

The most important part of this new initiative, beyond the impact for the youth players, is that this appears to be BAFA moving in the right direction the community has asked for. When the community asked that BAFA open up the GB selection process, positive steps were taken to do something that showed they were listening. This is also a positive step, because it shows that BAFA is committing to future developments. It has also done so in a very public manner, which means the community can not only feel invested, but very much hold the board accountable to its promises.

The most important aspect of all this is that by being open and public about future plans, BAFA is tying itself into the future of the youth. As the older members of the community apply pressure, BAFA is acknowledging the worries by putting its chips into the future of our game. Time will tell how the updates impact our quality as a nation and the opportunities afforded to our young players.

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