Several studies have confirmed that the number of hours of “deliberate practice” play a greater role in the development of young players that go on to play at higher levels, rather than innate talent.
A positive linear relationship was found between accumulated individual plus team practice time and the level of skill when a group of international, national and provincial players were assessed. ( Helsen, W., Hodges N.J., Winckel, J. & Starkes, J., (2000) Journal of Sports Science)
We have all heard about the 10,000-hour training rule — the theory, as advocated by Malcolm Gladwell and others, that if you truly want to be good at something, you have to devote at least 10,000 to practicing it.
While training volume will help assist young players maximize their soccer potential it is the quality of the training that can have the greatest impact. Practice must be intensive, focused on training goals and players must be receiving the correct feedback in order to make the correct refinements in order to excel.
Young players at the top academies in Europe, including the famous La Masia training academy in Barcelona typically only complete 70 minutes of team training per day per day. However, this leaves time for less formal individual or small-group training that will engage the players more and be completed at full-pace. In this environment the players have to be technically, mentally and physically on the edge and repeatedly making correct decisions while executing skills in small spaces. Read More
Players typically learn within a team setting by following the typical coaching process:
However, the challenge becomes when the coaching process is not specifically linked to an individual player’s own goals. Team coaches typically plan practice activities with the objective of improving the performance levels of the overall team, rather than focusing on improving the individual performance levels of their players. It has been proven that effective goal setting can accelerate the development of elite athletes so it is important that young players are in an environment where their individual goals are being determined, monitored and a plan is put in place to achieve them.
In addition, just like a young Messi when he was coming through at Barcelona, young players should set time aside to practice individually. Or, alternatively, they may also wish to seek out an Individual Performance Coach to tailor a training development program specifically for them.
More and more players at the professional and amateur levels are now beginning to work with Individual Performance Coaches. Arsenal player Theo Walcott, after not making the England squad for Euros 2016 realised he was neither fit enough nor strong enough and started working with Performance coach Bradley Simmonds. He is now playing the best football (soccer) of his life and has scored five goals in eight games this season. This form has now earned him a recall to the England international team.
What is Performance Coaching?
Performance coaching can best be described as a process to help players to maximize their potential and achieve their individual soccer goals. The objective of Performance coaches is to help players:
- Set practical, achievable goals
- Develop new skills
- Identify and maximise strengths
- Develop tools to overcome weaknesses
- Identify road blocks to achieving their true potential
- Aspire and drive towards a higher level of success
The best players in the world were developed as a result of combing team coaching with a significant amount of individual training. It has been a proven method of player development for many generations and it is important that all young players are combining both, in order to maximize their full potential.