Football Academy Update – How to help your child handle rejection

Football Academy Update – How to help your child handle rejection

The football season soon ends, what is everyone going to do? What are we going to do with every weekend! Here is an update on where Dylan and Josh are at. The last time I wrote, we didn’t know about Josh’s academy future.

Dylan, aged 10

Dylan, my eldest is currently in the Cambridge United U10 Academy squad. Although most weeks he plays up a year with the U11 squad and plays games on a Sunday with training 3-4 times each week. Plus, he plays for Stevenage U11 district team with games on a Saturday. His football diary is extremely busy, he and we his parents are super committed to it.

May 2018, sees the last few games being played, I think we have one more game after today against Derby. Then Dylan goes off on his third tour this season to Germany again in early June. We then get a total break for around 5-6 weeks.


Just a little 3 hour drive to Dylan’s opponents today. Mostest happy to report that the amazing U10 Cambridge academy boys smashed Liverpool 15-3. These boys are on fire they have recently beaten Tottenham, Norwich, Stoke and now Liverpool. So many top tier teams. A very special squad of boys playing at such a top level. #gratitude this weekend to the coaches who are fab with Dylan and Josh #3positivethings 1) beyond proud of my super boys at football on Saturday for Josh and Sunday for Dylan. 2) loving the new xfactor. #sorrynotsorry 3) had a great half term doing so much fun stuff with the boys . . . . . . . . #liverpool #liverpoolfc #lfc #cambridgeunitedacademy #cambridgeunitedfootball #cuyd #academyfootball #youthfootball #lawofattraction #loa #gratitude #dailygratitude #thankful #positivity #lawofattractionquote #moneysaving #frugal #ukblogger #ukbloggerlife #ukmoneyblogger #bloggingyourwaytoriches #youllneverwalkalone #footballmom

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Dylan adores his football. He really would play for 6 hours a day every day if he could. He has my determination and focus, but every day of the year, not like me whom loses it in the winter months. Dylan works hard on things like his technical skills and nutrition. He does yoga with me to improve his flexibility and core strength.

Dylan is doing just fine, more than fine, he is doing incredibly well. Proud mum.

Josh, aged 8

With Josh there is a bit of a different story, I’ll set the scene. He was spotted at a very young age, five, and went straight into the pre-academy structure at Cambridge United, before his older brother! It was an extra training session each week, nothing major, the odd game on top of his grass roots team.

Josh is left-footed with A LOT of talent, not necessarily the determined, focussed mindset of Dylan, but easily the talent. Bear in mind that Josh is only 8.

How to help your child handle rejection

Grassroots Issues

We hit an issue with his grassroots team Knebworth whom would not let him play up a year. Josh was more than capable of playing with the team one year older and had been doing so for two years. Cambridge were keen he did this too to stretch himself and learn from older boys. But the committee of Knebworth (none of whom knew who Josh was or had seen his talent), decided Josh should move back down to his age group. We removed him from Knebworth at the same time as Dylan who was leaving to join Cambridge Academy.

We had a bit of a gap of grassroots football from then. Josh carried on playing with Cambridge and they started to train him with the older academy boys. He got to go to training twice a week at the same time as Dylan and play in games every two-three weeks with teams like Aston Villa, Derby and Chelsea. But the pressure got to him, he was playing with the older boys who are big strong, physical boys. Very good at football boys and it was too much for seven-year-old Josh.

He had a break from Cambridge for a couple of months and joined a different local grassroots team who had a committee whom encouraged good players to play up a year if they had the talent. Josh joined Watton-at-stone and his confidence flourished again.

Football academies are signing their U9 boys for next year

So now we are at the point where academies are choosing whom to sign at the U9 point, this is where boys are signed to academies and leave their grass roots team. Josh hasn’t made it at Cambridge. The difficulties of this football year have taken their toll and Josh is not going to be signed. He does have a place in the Cambridge shadow academy, which I know is an incredible achievement, but his heart was set on playing for the academy team.

This is incredibly difficult for Josh to deal with, particularly with the success of his older brother. As soon as we found out we told him. I have been having this conversation with him for months now that he might not be signed. And if he doesn’t everything will be okay, we will find him a great team near to where we live to continue playing lots of football.

He was gutted, we have had a few emotional explosions in the past few weeks, big arguments between brothers. Poor Josh also broke his finger so has had to stop contact sport for the past three weeks. He is hating it.

As soon as I found out about the academy decision I got straight on the phone to Letchworth, a local very highly regarded football team. I spoke to the U9 manager who is keen to see Josh for a trial with the intention to train with them over the summer holiday and join the squad for the 2018/19 season. He will drop back to his official age group, but he will have a good level of training and will be playing will other shadow and regional develop centre boys.

Josh was happy with this. As long as he gets to play lots of football he is a happy.

How should you prepare your child for rejection like this at such a young age? 

Some parents choose to not put their children into situations where they might get rejected. I have spoken to many football mums or dads who didn’t let their children train with the academy teams until 8 or 9. Rather than age 5 when Josh started. Every parent has a different view. We wanted the boys to do what made them happy.

Talking is good, I often talk to both boys about the fact that at some point it is very likely they will get released/rejected. And will need to re-adjust without giving up on their dream.

We recognise that any emotional outbursts are most likely a reaction to this situation, and to just accept them for what they are. Josh has been through a big emotional change at a young age.

Dylan and Josh’s teachers know the whole situation and are very supportive. Josh’s teacher has been keeping a special eye on Josh to ensure he is okay at school. The boy’s teachers are amazing, I am so grateful for their support and care.

There you have it, one boy in the academy squad and another in the shadow academy. They are very talented boys. Long may it continue. And I will do everything in my power to support their football. Be that career or hobby. I do have a third son, he is five and tried football, but wasn’t keen. Quite a relief as for three weeks I had to be in three places at the same time = impossible.

Recommended Reading

If you are reading this as a football academy parent, or thinking about it for your son or daughter, have a read through these posts I have written with previous updates. What is it like to be football academy parent, including the cost!. The emotional turmoil of your eight year old going on football tour In addition, this book, Every Boys Dream, is a great and informative read explaining how the football academy structure works, and the likelihood of your child making it to be a professional football player.

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Lynn Beattie

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Lynn, I came across your blog and articles on your boys whilst searching for advice on putting children into academies. I have a similar situation to you but slightly reversed. My boys, age 5 and 7 are both football mad and play locally. Our 5 year old in particular has had football in his veins since he was a toddler. From a very young age he was able to drop kick a ball with precision and had a very powerful kick and just a natural technical ability with the ball. He also has confidence beyond his years and believes he is two years older than he is. He was spotted at the age of 4 and started training with an U6 team and even played a couple of friendly matches against other local teams. In contrast, our older son has technical ability but battles with confidence and plays very differently with his mates than on the pitch. He’s also quite small for his age. Both have been training in a county-wide development centre for the past year alongside a local grassroots team, but the coach now wants to put our five year old forward to start training with a category 3 club pre-academy. At first we were so excited about this for him as it felt like he was getting one step closer to the pathway he’s been heading for since he could stand on two feet. Along the way, people have been critical of his age saying he’s too young and ‘what are the chances’ – but I have always said with him it is less a case of pushy parents and more us struggling to keep up with his ability and drive to do this. It’s a bit like riding a runway train – I don’t think we could stop it even if we wanted to! But after doing a bit of research I have come across so many negative experiences and scare stories of Academy life. My excitement soon turned to fear that we are putting him into a situation that will lead to disappointment and depression (if these stories are to be believed!). The other issue is, as you have experienced, the problem of one child getting scouted and the other one not. I am already trying to work out how best to position this to our older son if things progress. It would mean him having to come to his brother’s training sessions each week and I worry about jealousy and him getting disheartened. Also as you described with Josh, our youngest would be playing up a year and also starting training from five. Mentally, I think he would cope with it and there just aren’t any other opportunities for him to play at that level in his own age range. But it’s another worry as to whether we are doing the right thing or should hold him back a year. Anyway, I would really appreciate hearing about any other experiences / advice from other parents and hopefully there will be a few positive or more balanced ones out there to provide a bit of reassurance that it is a leap worth taking!

    1. Okay so truth time…so many boys are picked up. At U5, U6, U7, U8. It only REALLY matters at U9 where they get signed. Carry on until then. I recommend Cambridge for skill, coaches, caring and communication.

  2. Hi was good reading your blog very interesting.
    Would you also say it matters what category club you choose .
    My son has been scouted for 2 clubs a cat 1 and cat 2 and we went with the cat 2 . He has been offered under 9 contract we will be signing any day now
    the cat 2 is closer and also don’t want to put so much pressure and exhaust him out at a young age. But every one saying the training and facilities at the cat 1 is amazing ! I’ve made my choice now and cat 2 it is hope it’s the right choice .
    Reality is the cat 1 are more likely to release you quicker than a cat 2 as cat 1 is so much pressure on the kids ?

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