Thursday, 14 January 2016

Effects of Fifa gaming on young people. Can we embrace the game to get children active?


As a parent, a youth football coach and school sport provider, I am fully aware of the affects and influence gaming has on our children’s lives. #FifaRealDeal

As parents we know that we have always been concerned about the time spent on computer games. The effects it has on a child’s social skills, communications skills, the detrimental effects it has on our child’s education as we battle time spent on gaming or online versus homework or revising. The biggest concern of course is the affects on physical wellbeing due to inactivity. As parents, like many we questioned for years the effects on motor skills and the eyes looking at screens for hours on end. Of course much of this is hard to prove but our gut feeling is, it can’t be good for you. One thing that is perhaps more easy to identify is weight gain and the visual effects on our children. We can easily identify our children’s mood by their actions and we can see when they appear to become overweight. Sometimes we even turn a blind eye to it. 
The trouble is, this phenomenon is getting harder to control. Without any question obesity in the UK is an ever increasing concern with the government yet again committing its £150m a year school sports fund to try and tackle this and push increased activity across all children. So its clear activity has to be the primary factor. Well, along with the ‘fuel’ we put in our body. So leading brands like McDonalds bring so much to the country in terms of employment etc. But they are equally having such an huge impact on health. Of course, I don’t want to bash them. We have a choice. Why don’t we bash the grotty burger van or lesser performing fast food brands. Only because McDonalds is hugely successful we target them for criticism. So of course to tackle that McDonalds counter this by promoting the integrity of their produce and also by giving us a healthy option. Whether this sells or not in large volumes I don’t know, but at least they promote. Either way, we can’t stop our children wanting to go to the restaurant so for us it meant we just tried to reduce the volume and limit it to become a treat. McDonalds also invests heavily into Football by backing community football, providing kits for grass roots and supporting coaching. They also do work in education providing business training and food production education. So in fact, when you delve a bit, as well as the profit they take they do at least attempt to give something back and I of course support the football projects because it promotes burning off the fuel.

Trouble is, I don’t see this from the gaming community. If they do, then I stand corrected but perhaps it isn’t well marketed. In particular we are looking at Fifa here. As this is relevant to football which is of course the most popular sport in the world and my trade. If you look at the marketing and think about it. It typically uses the world’s most famous footballers and then puts them in there club kits and sit them in front of a screen playing Fifa. The messaging is almost like “play this and you could be like me”. It’s like it has become part of the development pathway. I’m sure those guys will produce some research figures showing how they increase interest in football. I don’t disagree with that but what I ask is this. You now have such an influence on the game through young children, teenagers and now adults due to the era, what do you give back? So, you employ a lot of people, you pay a lot of tax I’m sure. But two things have to happen for me. Your ‘superstars’ have to be shown to mention the importance of real activity and real practice if you want to be a footballer of any level and certainly if you want to be healthy. Secondly you surely have some moral responsibility considering the massive powerful influence you have on now a massive percentage of the population. Bearing in mind the Fifa product is promoted and deemed suitable to children aged 3+.

As parents we know that 3 hours could absolutely fly by for a child playing Fifa and it would be hell to play to get them off. Could the game or console manufactures create a parent area which gives parents the ability to create a time-limit? With today’s modern technology why don’t you give parents that control via an app? Parents sometimes lose track of the time they are on it so why not be responsible and give them more direct control and information. This would enable parents to even shut down the console remotely or set times breaks. Use a tool to control homework etc. I think as a parent I would buy that add on. Just a suggestion. If you make a gazillion dollars perhaps you’ll remember who gave you the idea?

As a football coach I have seen a complete change in culture as a result of this game. I’m of course a traditionalist. I used to go to the park with a ball under my arm. I used to be in the street playing football. But times have changed. Also there are so many alarming stories and disgusting crimes against children that perhaps we have also become so protective that in fact we take comfort that our child is inside safe and sound.
But I can’t help fighting it. I said to a child recently “You do know that you can’t get better at football by exercising your hands and fingers? You would be better warming up with a rubiks cube than a ball”. I recently had a full on debate about an Arsenal center back when a young Yr6 lad was suggesting you don’t have to be quick or fit to be a footballer. I was saying, I’ll think you will find that player is a lot quicker and fitter than you perhaps think. He laughed, shrugged his head. He absolutely didn’t buy into what I was telling him. I pressed further and then he told me. On Fifa he has only got 29 for pace. So that is his gauge of the player. What Fifa says goes. Not the coach!

I recently ran trials for teenagers. Now these were players serious about wanting to still become footballers. Again it’s my view that the culture has changed. When I was a teenager (I sound like uncle albert) we would meet up for a kick around in the parks. I remember one Christmas we all met up and played football in the snow. Loads of us. We needed to get out and play because all our games were off. But snow wouldn’t stop us. Now, its changed. Teenagers meet online. They play Fifa online. In fact, If, now as a parent of teenagers we didn’t bang on the wall at 2am in the morning I think they would play all through the night.
So, I went around these teenagers on trial and asked them what position they played. The replies were “CDM, CAM, LAM, RAM” etc. I thought to myself, wow, these guys all use “Fifa language” This is how they see the game now. During one of the games we asked why a midfielder had not tracked back with his runner and he replied “I’m not CDM, I’m CAM”. That was when it hit me. Times have changed. I can’t fight this on my own. The trouble is, the kids don’t believe me anyway. But I’m not going to concede to the challenge. I can do one of two things. I can keep fighting this challenge or I can embrace it and somehow use it.

There is of course benefits to the game. One of those being knowledge. Whenever I hear a player’s name I haven’t heard of before I just ask my teenage son. Now I work in professional football but my lad has got one up on me. He can tell me stats and history of seemingly any player in the world. Remarkable, how does he know that? Fifa. So to try to open my mind to change I took a bold step. Of course I played Fifa over the years, less recently as I don’t have time. So I know the basics. But I asked my son to show me all the new training sessions and drills. I recall doing some as you would wait for the game to load. I was shocked. Actually, some of these drills looked fantastic. Moreover they looked fun. They also looked like drills I would love to try myself. So I started jotting some down. Some also looked like a real good cardio exercise. Actually, overall, to me, if someone was exceptional at these drills in real life I suspect they would be absolutely fantastic! So, it was decided. I’m going to bring these drills to life.

In the last few weeks whilst coaching in schools I have now started to ask the question.
“How many of you play Fifa at home?” Nearly always all hands go up.
“How many of you would like to try the training drills in Fifa, in REAL LIFE?” The response was amazing, children jumping with their hands up, “me me me, when is it”.
So, my organisation has ran football holiday courses for years now. It’s always been structured within a learning syllabus typical of academy football. It’s I know, It’s what I was trained for. But I’m going to do something new. I’m going to completely change our approach. Try something fresh. We are going to deliver Drills that look like the Fifa training games. Including knocking down boxes and target rings for crossing. Shooting drills with balls launched from machines and dribbling challenges. The full works.

We will arrange a points and a prize for leading players in age range and maybe even talk to football club to see if they would like to invite a player in on trial as a result. Because these drills are tough!
I think I would also consider a late teens/adult competition. Purely because I think I would like to have a go myself!
@antmccool7


Coming soon April 2016

Bedfordshire 4th & 5th April
Hertfordshire 6th & 7th April

Details will be at:
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Could you be the #FifaRealDeal



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