Parents won’t thank me for this. We hear a lot about how video games are bad for kids’ development and a whole load of other stuff I never listened to like “you’ll fry your brain playing that.”
But what if coaches used these same games to improve and inspire young players?
Football is a simple enough game. From youth level, we see kids instinctively getting to grips with systems. You get the round thing and put it between the sticks. In coaching, we tend to overly focus and idealise teams from the past and their success in certain systems and haven’t tried thinking of new ideas that can match the speed and intensity of the modern game.
But the way they kids play of Fifa is incredible. Already familiar with all the positions on the pitch as well as being able to choose selected players to fulfill certain roles in the team, tracking back, man marking, etc.
Not to mention the plethora of formations at their disposal. They vary from classical systems like 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 to all sorts of more flexible line-ups.
The truth is the world isn’t the same as it was 20+ years ago; the streets have changed. There’s USB ports on benches now. The parks aren’t littered with kids playing football anymore. I’m old enough to know about the freedom that comes with having a football and hours to kill, but also young enough to be a part of and see the effects of the gaming influence on the kids of today
We’re no longer in the era of Wayne Rooney-like street strikers or Nike Academy, but while children are now restricted in ways previous generations were not in terms of outdoor play, they will find things and be able to explore in many different ways online.
So why not use that as a means to improve instead of an activity that is seen as something that is holding them back from progression?
I could show you my room. You look across my shelf and you may be impressed at the fancy CD cases and books. The collection alone is a wonderful sight, but it’s nothing to get excited about. You’ll see the usual suspects. GTA. Call of Duty. Pacman. And then Fifa09 to Fifa20. Some of them in double because we’d scratch the disc quite badly. Quite a few duplicates, actually.
Growing up, Fifa was a part of life. At school, people looked at things on a pure Fifa ability basis, and you’d have a certain level of respect depending on how good you were at the game.
It wasn’t a place for the timid, no-one was safe from being drawn out for being rubbish and young 13-19 boys need to brag about something. But without fail I’d force (beg) my mum to get me the latest Fifa, until I got a little older with my own money and only had to beg for the remaining £15.
How can it help?
Fifa introduces young players to the technical, tactical and analytical side of the game in a way the previous generations could only dream of. Ultimate team allows you to buy and trade your own players. Put together a team based on a random selection of players from packs, like an online match attax, This builds on players having high football IQ as you have to pick players based on chemistry with others and take their special attributes into account.
It doesn’t just stop at football. The influence of video games is strong in other sports and helped young Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen. He had been racing on simulated F1 tracks to master overtaking techniques, most famously at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2015, when he used a move he had perfected in a sim racing programme to overtake Felipe Nasr around the outside of a high-speed corner.
Coaches should be more up to date and modern in their methods as they are truly going to inherit a generation unlike any other. Using language that they will understand, If that means allowing the next generation to play a bit more Fifa with the purpose of learning the advantages of pressing or positioning, why not.
If you take those ideas on to the training pitch and use them productively, why not? Kids are already playing this game; it is renewed annually, and will be around when they’re adults, make use of their knowledge to help them develop quicker.