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Norfolk FA could roll out their own ‘Silent Weekend’ trial across youth football scene

PUBLISHED: 14:14 29 January 2015 | UPDATED: 14:14 29 January 2015

Suffolk FA launches the 'Silent Weekend', pictured left to right, development manager Nathan French and county development team members Mike Phillips, Phil Woolnough, Paige Shorten, Michael Cornall and Gary Pinyoun.

Suffolk FA launches the 'Silent Weekend', pictured left to right, development manager Nathan French and county development team members Mike Phillips, Phil Woolnough, Paige Shorten, Michael Cornall and Gary Pinyoun.

Archant

Silence could be golden in Norfolk if a trial to cut out noise on the sidelines of youth football matches across the border is deemed to be a success.

Horsford Invitational 6-a-side youth football tournament.; PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYHorsford Invitational 6-a-side youth football tournament.; PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Suffolk FA will encourage spectators and coaches to ‘let the players play’ next month during a countywide event aimed at counteracting the disruptive influences that can cause misery to some players on the pitch.

From February 21-23 the county’s first ‘Silent Weekend’ is being hosted to encourage spectators and coaches to refrain from shouting instructions, cheering or chanting.

It is an idea that has been used temporarily across the country already – and more recently in junior rugby – and those at the top of the tree in Nelson’s County are keeping a keen eye on how the initiative unfolds.

Norfolk FA development manager Gavin Lemmon said: “Silent football activities have already taken place in the county and we are now in the early stages of considering a countywide initiative in line with next season’s new FA strategy.

“We will be interested to see the results of Suffolk’s upcoming event in February.”

The idea not only comes from suggestions that pitch-side coaching stifles development, but because of the growing number of misconduct offences involving adult spectators. Some matches have even been abandoned after fighting broke out.

While those examples are perhaps of an extreme nature, a growing culture of dishing out stick 
continues to be a long-running 
problem in the game at every level.

Phil Sciberras, the coach of junior football team Martlesham Eagles in Suffolk, said: “Most spectators in Suffolk are well behaved. However, I’ve got nephews in other parts of the country where it’s a lot worse. At the end of the day, the players are there to have fun.

“If they are not getting anything out of the game or they feel they are being victimised then they are not going to come back so I think it’s going to have a negative effect. Ultimately I want the kids to enjoy their football, more than anything, and so if the silent weekend helps achieve that I’ll be really pleased.”

The Ipswich & Suffolk Youth League, South Suffolk Youth League, Suffolk FA Ways, Norfolk & Suffolk Youth League – which has 22 divisions from under-7s to under-16 – and Suffolk FA Monday Night Football League are supporting the idea.

Michael Cornall, Suffolk’s football development officer, said: “With so many different aspects to think about during the game of football, players need as little distraction as possible in order to aid their development.

“We firmly believe that ‘silent’ football will give players that environment where they can learn and make mistakes with a significantly reduced fear of criticism.”

His colleague, Paige Shorten, who helps develop the women’s game, added: “Although it will be an unusual scenario for coaches and spectators to find themselves in, we firmly believe the event will have a big impact on giving youth players the best football experience possible.”

Comment: Noise from the sidelines never did me any harm growing up

It might be hard to believe for those who know me but I haven’t always been so keen to thrust my opinion, and presence, on to people.

As a young boy – and yes I’m aware I’m hardly ancient at 27 – I was quite a nervous soul. Rumour has it I held my mum’s hand for dear life when it was ever suggested I had the opportunity to venture away from her apron-strings. That notion was hardly ideal when I was encouraged to follow my father’s footsteps and take up the beautiful game.

I wouldn’t say I was dragged to my first training session with Tilney Boys, aged seven, but I felt my stomach fill with butterflies when I arrived that I wished would lift me away. Yet gradually, they decreased, I became more confident, and the grip on my mother’s paw eased at my end.

As I started to improve quite quickly in the blue of my club (it’s not hard to get better when you’re starting from nothing) I was always searching for a voice. A reassuring word from my dad – a fine grassroots player himself and a man whose opinion I still listen out for today as I chase a ball about when I’m not working on a Saturday. A quick ‘come on you can do better than that’ or some advice about what I could or shouldn’t have done in a certain situation. It helped motivate me and increase my knowledge base.

The feeling I felt when scoring and hearing cheers were some of my favourite memories. It would be a huge shame for kids to miss out on that. The groans of despair at a defeat taught me that winning was important. For me you have to try to be the best to succeed in this world.

While abuse of any level is bang out of order, I was always one who could take stick on the chin even aged 11. It would fire me up. I’d be desperate to prove the ‘haters’ wrong. Had those Sunday mornings actually been filled with silence, I fear I wouldn’t be the confident and driven person that I am – on and off the pitch.

The Silent Weekend will help some. But I just think it’s another example of the mollycoddled world we live in today. I’m glad I wasn’t wrapped up in cotton wool. Because noise on the sidelines never did me any harm growing up.

What do you think about the idea of ‘Silent Weekend’? Would you like to see it used across Norfolk? Let us know your thoughts by e-mailing gavin.caney@archant.co.uk or writing a comment below.

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