Conference puts the voice of the child first in football

Speakers and delegates from across the UK and Europe attended the first Rebuilding the Belief Conference at CGM Media Centre in Worcester.

The sell out event explored the positive ways in which English football can put the best interests of children first in football from grass roots to professional academies.

University of Salford lecturer and Participation Through Sport founder Jameel Hadi got the ball rolling with his talk about what children like about sport and why we need to listen to them and Paul Cooper’s topic was how to make football fun, free and interesting – from street soccer to Free v Free and ten years of the National Children’s Football Alliance.

Tim Kirk shared valuable lessons from Bath & Wiltshire Boys and Borussia Dortmund, where he is under 13s coach, and Phil Johnson, sports psychologist and former team psychologist at AS Monaco, explained why the game needs to support parents and families of players. Phil is still based in the principality.

BlastBeat founder Robert Stephenson travelled from Dublin to give delegates an insight into FootBeat, a solution to offer academy players a future beyond the game, and CGM managing partner Chris Green, author of the award-nominated book Every Boy’s Dream, spoke about why the professional game needs to listen to children, experts and its own coaches. 

There was also plenty of animated debate surrounding the discussion themes: what does listening to children and families tell us about grassroots coaching and academies and changes the game can make to improve academies.

Pictured, from left, conference speakers Phil Johnson, Robert Stephenson, Jameel Hadi, Chris Green, Paul Cooper and Tim Kirk. Photo: Doug Anderson Photography.