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Andy Martino: Children are not miniature adults, need to deal with them differently!

The third and final day of the AIFF Virtual International Coaching Conference 2021 kicked off with a talk by AIFF Media Director Nilanjan Datta, followed by Southampton FC Football Development Manager Andy Martino on Sunday, December 5, 2021.

Martino has been with the Saints for more than 20 years and overseen the development of superstars like Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and current first-team captain James Ward-Prowse. His topic pertained to the development of youth players from the U-13 age group to the reserves.

Martino started off the session by briefing the coaches about ‘The Southampton Way’, detailing their Academy Plan consisting of objectives, style, approach and productivity.

“At that age, it is all about the players and not the coach,” he said. “We coach them on their position-specific characteristics till each player knows what the expectations are of each role.”

Player behaviour off the field is given as much importance if not more and Martino believes that has helped those who don’t make it to find other clubs and continue their footballing career.

“Ward-Prowse is the best example of being an ambassador of the club, on and off the pitch, with his character,” he said. “Our staff deserve a lot of credit for moulding these young players at this impressionable age.”

“Children are not miniature adults and we need to deal with them differently at different ages,” added Martino.

The opening talk of Day 3 was given by Nilanjan Datta who took the coaches on a journey through the evolution of sports media to its pandemic-affected status quo and how coaches can make the best of the digital and social media platforms available to them.

“There has been a shift in the media paradigm to digital and social,” he explained. “As the mainstream space is reserved only for winners and other newsmakers, day-to-day developmental stories are lost.”

Social media has frequently come under the scanner and even been labelled a distraction from many quarters of the footballing fraternity. But Mr. Datta firmly believes that personal choices dictate how much one can let it affect one’s day-to-day life.“The media spectrum is subjective to each issue that pops up,” he said. “Views on social media views differ from coach to coach and it is important to educate and inform players about both sides.”

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