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Let Us Play

By Jim Rowe

Following months of discussions with children and young people about their game, one comment was persistent throughout - “I wish our coaches would just let us play.” In Kent we have over 5,000 coaches providing football to over 60,000 young players. While the majority of these volunteers create a safe, fun and inclusive environment, too many young people have stories of negative experiences. We gave nine randomly selected children from across the county, of varying ages, the opportunity to speak openly about their best and worst times playing in youth football. Luke Baker, Youth and Mini-Soccer Football Development Officer said, “it’s crucial that we not only give our children and young people a voice to express themselves, but act on what they say so we create the best environment for them to enjoy and learn in.” When given a platform to discuss their experiences, our young people told stories ranging from opposition managers instructing an eight year old to bite another player, to girls being told they shouldn’t play because, “it’s really a boys thing.” To some adults these comments may seem insignificant, but it has been obvious that these are messages that stay with children. Natalie Curtis, Football Development Officer for Inclusion and Respect said, “with the Respect programme being 8 years old, it is important that as society changes, we, as football, change too. #LetUsPlay is another fantastic initiative developed by the children of Kent to remind us of the importance of positive and encouraging behaviour that they need from their touchlines.” We hope that by taking just a few minutes to listen to how our children and young people feel when derogatory, negative or threatening comments are used against them, we can improve our youth football environment for the better. If you have any questions then please contact Luke.Baker@KentFA.com or Natalie.Curtis@KentFA.com

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