I wish I knew more when my children was born

Practice what you learn and your children will benefit

Photo: Arysport TV

Science is a major contributor to changes in our daily life. How would it be if we still used kitchen appliances from the fifties or flew in Air Planes from the sixties? Mobile phones, Computers, toys, shopping, building materials & Hospital Equipment, you name it, it has all changed due to science. However, have communication in youth sport really changed at the same rate?

Does sporting clubs, coaches and parents understand what neuroscience has discovered about how children’s brain works and how they learn?

From 66 to number 1

When Kris Van Der Haegen, Director Coach Education in Belgium football sat in a brainstorm meeting after having lost 2-0 against rival Turkey in Euro 2000, and thereby not qualifying for the quarter final, he knew they needed to come up with a new strategy for developing future players.

2009 Belgium was ranked 66 in the world on the FIFA ranking. Despite resistance from “old school”, they radically changed their coaching methods to focus on the individual first. They decided it was more beneficial for children to have fun so they could fall in love with the game rather than work them hard with technique drills and winning games at an early age.

They even scrapped the ladder up to 13 years of age. Winning was no longer more important than player development. Focus on winning creates an environment where early developers, generally bigger and faster children born in the first part of the year are the preferred choice to play.

In Way of Champion Podcast Episode #52, where I sourced some of the information, Kris Van Der Hagen said that if their system didn’t change, Kevin De Bruyene would most likely not be the star player he is today. He was too small and did not even make the Belgium’s National Youth Team. He was a late developer. Belgium achieved world No 1 in 2015 and created “The Golden” generation; De Bruyene, Dembele, Lukaku, Hazard, Defour, Witsel, Courtois, Mignolet and many others.

We have seen them beat England 2-0 for a bronze in 2018 World Cup. A country of 11.35m people have shown the football world that change is possible. According to Fifa, Belgium continues to be No 1 when this blog is written.


Who dare to  go against “old school”?


Yellow for Yelling more than side line behaviour

My aim with Yellow for Yelling is to share with parents and coaches, not technical or tactical methods of the game, but a different approach of thinking about our own children in sport. I will continue to share what I learn from academia, science and professionals.

Hey! It is my belief that if Belgium can change from 66 to No 1 (Fifa 25th Oct 2018), we should be open to use more neuro scientific and pedagogic approach in developing our children in sport.

Environment for learning

I was very fortunate to spend time with Mark O’Sullivan, UEFA A Licensed coach at AIK, Sweden. Mark delivers Swedish FA coach education courses and has run many youth social projects, has his own blog www.footblogball.wordpress.com

and is currently doing PhD research in to designing learning environments in youth football. Mark has also worked as a consultant for the Canadian FA (2017) and regularly holds lectures, talks and practical sessions around the world.

He invited me to follow U8 & U9 training sessions at AIK, Stockholm. I was amazed how quiet the coaches were during training. No yelling instruction and minimum stoppage. They interfered very little while the children played but the kids still played rather organised. They (kid’s) are used to play in an environment where they can think for themselves and are free to make mistakes without someone is yelling at them.


Mark O’Sullivan and coaching staff addressing the children

“When the children play, they are in charge”

Tom Statham Manchester United Youth Coach





In “Off the Pitch with Active” podcast episode #012, I interview Mark O’Sullivan and we discussed the importance of the environment. If you are interested here is a link https://activeillustrated.com/podcast-episodes/ It is also available in iTune just search for Off the Pitch with Active


Training & games must be fun to get our kids to stay in the game.

The first step is to make sure our children fall in love with a sport. This is our job as parents & coaches to let our children play in a fun and safe environment.





Sorry, can’t remember who said that, but its great!




Thanks to Way of Champion podcast with John O’Sullivan and Reed Maltbie for your podcast with Kris Van Der Hagen. It should be an inspiration for coaches and clubs in Australia.




Thanks Mark O’Sullivan for inviting me into your training sessions and sharing your wisdom on Off the Pitch with Active


Active Illustrated