Former Ashford Football Club player Lennie Griffiths releases a parent's guide to grass roots football in Kent

"I go to football matches now and again and see a lot of shouting from parents. There is a pressure to win even at a young age."

That's the view of a former Kent footballer who has written a book about how parents can best guide their children through grassroots football to help build a healthy future foundation for the beautiful game.

Lennie Griffiths, who had England trials as a teenager and also spent time with Millwall, Wimbledon, Torquay, Folkestone and Deal Town, has released Bring Joy To Your Child's Football.

The former Ashford footballer has self-published his short 33-page guide, which is now available to buy or download via Amazon.

But the 42-year-old's vision is that his work, or a version of it, could be distributed amongst families of young Kent players when they sign-up to their first team in the county.

The book, he says, is designed to be picked up and read a little at a time and covers subjects like how to go about finding a child's first team, the different football leagues and how they work, what happens on match days, how to approach winning and losing with very young players, managing expectation as a parent and how to best support a child's club and coach.

The book is available to order or download on Amazon
The book is available to order or download on Amazon

Lennie, who now works as a plumber in Ashford, explained: "What we want is a good environment for the children. Children get told how they should behave and play but there's little guide for parents."

Alongside his own passion for football, which he himself stopped playing around 10 years ago, the former semi-professional player has three boys, now aged 22, 17 and 14.

Having spent both time on the pitch, the sidelines, as a parent and a coach of young players, he said something was niggling at him to share what he has learnt and how his experiences could be used to guide parents who are new to the environment.

Some of the advice in his book includes how he thinks parents can best support their offspring from the sidelines.

"A positive parent who helps their child is the parent who cheers, claps and praises at appropriate times and respects all participants playing the game. A parent who lets the coach do the coaching, a referee do the refereeing and they let their child make their own mistakes learning their own lessons" he writes.

In March 2019 the Kent FA also launched a campaign called #LetUsPlay, with former Gillingham player Andrew Crofts and his parents, which included the release of a video highlighting the importance of positivity and not pressure when it comes to the county's youngest players.

Lennie Griffiths during his playing days. Pictured in the middle row on the far right.
Lennie Griffiths during his playing days. Pictured in the middle row on the far right.

As most children, Lennie says, won't go on to play for 'big teams' - and with lots of teenagers dropping out of clubs when other interests take over - the dad-of-three believes it is crucial that the benefits of football for children are promoted and come above any scoreline.

He said: "Kids come home and say 'I want to play football'. The don't come home and say 'I want to win the Premier League'.

"At that early stage they just want to kick a ball.

"Most kids don't go on to play for big teams so you have to get the social benefits. It's about getting the respect, good behaviour, social commitment, healthy eating etc right and that comes before any football score."

Recalling games as a child and teen when there could and would be fights between young players on the pitch, Lennie is quick to point out that he thinks football has come a long way.

But with always room for improvement, and the national and international game being recently blighted by accusations of racism, he says it is crucial there is a healthy environment surrounding grassroots games.

He added: "I thought I knew a little about football, but It wasn’t until my children played that I started to watch and then coach. That is when my real education in football started.

"The purpose of this short guide is to make parents aware of the importance of the environment in which your children grow. Your children will grow and maybe live a life around football. They will become tomorrow’s examples to the next generations. We must teach them right today."

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