To play or not to play is a question most coaches will be asking themselves at some point in the coming weeks and months and to be honest, it’s not an easy decision to make!
We coach football because we want to be involved in games, so calling them off always goes against the grain. However, it’s important we get the right balance when we make these decisions and it’s essential we keep things safe and fair for all involved.
Here are some thoughts to consider when deciding if the game is on or off?
- Possibly the best advice is to get someone to make the decision with you. Try and do a pitch inspection either the day before or very early on the morning of the match. Have a thought for the travelling team and how far they have to come. Nobody wants to travel a distance on a Sunday morning only to find the game was never going to be played in the first place.
- The other most important thing for me is to ask yourself, can we get a good game of football played and will everyone at the game have fun and be safe. This includes players and supporters getting to and from the game, as well as the players during the match itself. Remember, the game is supposed to be fun.
- Next, ask yourself, how cold is it? Even if the pitch is OK, will the players get through the game if it’s just too cold and please don’t forget the substitutes standing on the side waiting to come on. It’s OK for supporters wearing multiple layers to keep warm but if you think that players are going to be literally crying with cold, simply don’t play and resist the suggestions that’s ‘it’s a man game’ and ‘it’s character building’. It isn’t and it isn’t.
- As for the pitch, will it take a stud? If it’s frost bound and hard, don’t play. The risk of injury is high and if you can’t stand up, you can’t play football. Likewise, if it’s been very wet, will the ball roll and is it safe to tackle? Can you actually play football rather than just hoofing it round the pitch with the physically strongest team winning? If it’s very soft, you might just get through the game that day but what about the following week or two if you leave the pitch in such a poor shape and it cannot recover? Please keep in mind we don’t have enough grass pitches as it is.
Clearly, the older players become (from 7v7 to 9v9 and then 11v11) the more leeway you have but it’s still important to ensure a decent level of football will prevail and the game can be played in a safe and enjoyable environment. We also have to guard against our natural enthusiasm to play, especially as for some coaches it’s the only physical and mental outlet of the week, and apply some reasonable measure of common sense when making that final decision, to play or not to play?!