PLAYTHE1V1WAY

PROGRESSIVE INDIVIDUAL LEARNING MODEL FOR SOCCER TALENT DEVELOPMENT

Performance Improvement Tip: Dare to Dream

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dare-to-dreamDuring this summer I was fortunate to travel to France to watch Northern Ireland play in the Euros. We over-achieved as a small country of only 1.8 million people. The team successfully navigated through a tough qualifying group containing Germany, Poland and the Ukraine to reach the last 16? Why does a small nation like Northern Ireland hold the record as the smallest nation to win a game at the World Cup finals? How can we be ranked as high as 26 in the FIFA world rankings? The players dared to dream!

Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy sent an inspirational video to the team before the Euros. It highlighted that for many years Northern Ireland has punched well above its weight and produced world champions and top sports teams. Success has been achieved with many of the same attributes that Leicester City used last year when they went on to win the English Premiership against all the odds. Hard-work, determination, persistence and a contagious belief that obstacles can be overcome to reach the higher levels. Young players must also embrace this commitment to work hard and believe that they do can achieve great things through a commitment to get better every day.

The tide is turning in soccer at the highest levels! The top teams and the so called big players are under pressure. They are being out-worked, out-fought and sometimes out-thought by supposedly less talented opponents. In football (soccer) there is no place to hide on the field. If you are not putting maximum effort in and supremely motivated, you will be found out. Some of the top teams and players who are not on top of their game and letting their standards drop are now been humbled by their smaller opponents.

I think everyone is ready for a new era when the players and teams who are humble, hard-working and willing to do whatever it takes to overcome any obstacles in their path are achieving success. It is a refreshing change and provides our young players with better role models who are humble and demonstrate on a daily basis that success has to be earned.

It is achieved over the long-term with great determination, persistence and hard-work!

So, how do young players seek out and execute the little things that would give them an advantage so that they can dare to dream and over-achieve? Maybe, they implement the 1% rule and achieve all those little improvements that add up to significant performance gains. It can be as simple as getting to training a little bit earlier for some extra warm-up. Maybe it’s going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Maybe it’s trying new moves in training that you have watched on television. Maybe it’s planning ahead so they have a proper snack before training and have hydrated properly.

As a result of all these little things, which may in themselves constitute miniscule improvements, players can perform as much as 4 per cent better each week (that’s 1 per cent better, times 3 training sessions and 1 game each week). After a month, that could mean being 16 per cent better.

Lots of these little things over a period of time make the difference for young players. They are taking ownership for their development, thinking for themselves and striving to be the best they can be. There is no better feeling in sport, and football (soccer) is no different, at looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you have done everything you could.

Coaches and top teams seek out these types of players. Teammates love being around them and parents feel proud knowing that their children have developed a set of skills that will be useful throughout their journey in life.

Young players who dare to dream…and put the work in, can over-achieve!
Player Tip: Identify and implement those “little things” into your training program that all add up to significant improvements in performance

Coach Tip: Educate your players on what “little things” they can do on a regular basis to improve performance

Parent Tip: Help your child develop good habits in preparation for training and games.

 

Performance Improvement Tip : Self Manage your Mental Skills

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bill-beswick-v2-0One of the key attributes that determines the success of young players is their mental skill-set. Typically, top professional clubs will assess mental attributes such as attitude, focus during training and games, confidence, composure, self-motivation, aggressiveness and creativity. Players can be very good technically, are intelligent in their decision-making and have strong physical attributes but if they do not have strong mental skills – then ultimately performance levels will be negatively affected.

“Champions must have both skill and will, but the will must be stronger” (Muhammad Ali)

In soccer, young players face challenges on a daily basis. The best players will assess these challenges and successfully find solutions. When humans are faced with a challenge, we typically have two choices – fight or flight.  The best young players will fight and not run away from challenges. They will embrace them and once they accept a challenge they become more confident in their own ability. This also triggers emotional responses such as excitement and determination which produces high energy levels. As this sequence continues then young players will successfully develop a resilience (mental toughness) that will allow them to fully maximize their technical ability, game intelligence and physical attributes.

I am a firm advocate of young players practicing and developing their mental skills on a continuous basis, just like they would their technical skills. One of the best resources that I have came across to help young players understand themselves better and improve their mental skills is the work of Sports Psychologist Bill Beswick.  I first met Bill at Middlesbrough Football Club in 2005, when he was assistant manager to Steve McClaren.   Bill has worked at Derby County, Manchester United, Middlesbrough & Sunderland in the English Premier League and contributes to UEFA Pro Licence award courses for a number of European Football Associations. He has international experience with the England U18 and U21 squads.

The reason I was drawn to Bill’s work is that in his book “Focused for Soccer” he provides young players with a series of self-assessment check lists on attitude, that can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses. He then goes on to provide practical action plans on how to improve confidence, concentration, competitiveness and overall mental toughness.

Bill’s philosophy is based on the belief that psychological skills are not magical but can be learnt (like other skills) through instruction, repetition and perseverance. He sets out, in his book, a recommended process for players to follow in terms of incorporating these new ideas into training as they strive to achieve higher performance levels:

  • Use self assessment tools to determine areas that can be improved
  • Set three goals that are progressive steps that are relatively easy to achieve
  • Visualize as you would want to be and image what it would feel like
  • Practice visualization techniques to achieve the set goals
  • Monitor your progress through reflection
  • Repeat and repeat actions so that they are new and positive habits
  • Enjoy your new performance gains with more confident displays in training and games

 

Taking control of this aspect of performance will provide young players with an important advantage over teammates and other players that they compete against. It will also help to develop good life skills that can be used in the future to be successful.

 

Resources:

Focused for Soccer by Bill Beswick

 

Player Tips: Read Focused for Soccer and complete the self-assessment questionnaires and recommended action planning process

Coaches Tips: Read Focused for Soccer to gain a greater insight into sports psychology and utilize Bill Beswick’s recommended strategies for teams

Parent Tips: Read Focused for Soccer to improve understanding of what mental attributes required to play at the highest levels. Provide support and assistance to your child as they try to improve this aspect of their performance

 

Performance Improvement Tip # 27: Develop your interpersonal skills

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communicationLast week it was reported that Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola has banned Wi-Fi from the clubs training ground in an effort to improve the inter-personal communication amongst the players. Good communication is a very important component for all successful teams, both on the field and off the field and greatly affects the dynamics and overall mood of the team. You only have to look at the strong comrade amongst over-achieving teams such as Leicester City (EPL Champions last year), Wales, Northern Ireland and Iceland (at Euro 2016) to understand the significance of good communication for sports performance.

At the youth levels, it is important that young players recognize the importance of this early on. Professional clubs in Europe that I speak to educate their young players on the importance of being comfortable speaking to other members of the group, members of the coaching staff and the professional players at the club that act as their mentors. There is also an on field requirement of communication where young player’s must be proficient at calling for the ball and providing information to other players during training and game situations.

Research has confirmed that the development of psychosocial skills plays an important role in talent development. Psychosocial development is the development of the personality, including the acquisition of social attitudes and skills from infancy all the way through to maturity. A study by Larsen., Alfermann, D., & Christensen, M. (2012) confirmed that explicit psychosocial skills such as motivation, self-awareness and the ability to work hard are very important to talent development. However, they also concluded that implicit psychological skills such as general interpersonal (social) skills where even more important for young soccer players when dealing with their transition from youth to professional soccer.

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Implicit psychological skills are those that are only indirectly practiced and rarely talked about and include:

  • Awareness of team member personalities
  • Wanting the best for teammates
  • Knowing team strengths and weaknesses
  • Teamwork skills – being part of the group
  • Trusting teammates
  • Making your teammate better
  • Dealing with information from parents and school
  • Dealing with information from club and coaches
  • Handing social life and school
  • Socializing skills
  • Making friends
  • Verbal communications skills
  • Sharing information with others
  • Utilizing coaches and experts to improve performance
  • Interaction skills within a competitive environment

 

Sports psychology tends to focus more on the explicit psychological skills such as self-awareness, goal-setting, motivation and self – organization. However, there should be a recognition amongst young players that being a good person and developing good communication skills with teammates and coaches is a key requirement for their talent development.

Resources :  Video from Nike Academy – Communication and Leadership

 

References:

Larsen., Alfermann, D., & Christensen, M. (2012). Psychosocial Skills in a Youth Soccer Academy: A holistic Ecological Perspective. Sport Science Review, vol. XXI, No 3-4, August 2012   

 

Player Tip: Recognize that communication with others is an important skill-set for elite sports athletes. If you are not comfortable around others may a point in learning more about them and engaging in dialogue

Coach Tip:  Give some thought how you can build camaraderie amongst the group.  Talk openly about each player’s strengths in front of the entire group

Parent Tip: Teaching your child to be respectful of their coaching staff, opponents and teammates and communicate openly within the group will greatly enhance your child’s development

 

Performance Improvement Tip: Learn different positions

formationsOne of the challenges we face in North America is our tendency to place young players in specific positions at young ages. Typically, coaches will place children in positions based on physical size, level of aggression, speed and technical ability. Less skilled players are asked to play as defenders, aggressive players are asked to play midfield and fast and skillful players are selected as forwards. The problem with this is that coaches are typically making these decisions to win games, not to develop players. Also, many young players adopt a mindset that they can and only will play one position. This limits learning and growth as a player.

As a young player I played every outfield position. This helped me to gain a good understanding of the game and an opportunity to practice many diverse skills. One week, I was able to try 1v1 moves against defenders and supply crosses for the forwards. The next week, I was playing central defense and using my defensive skills.
In the modern game, at the highest levels, players can find themselves playing in more than one position, during each game. Sometimes a team may be chasing a game and play with more forwards on the field or alternatively be trying to protect a lead and play with more defensive structure. It is a requirement of the modern game that players need to be able to adapt and play in different positions.

Many of today’s professional players started their careers in different positions. Lionel Messi, for example, was considered a wide player at Barcelona during his early years and considered too small to play centrally as a forward. Cristiano Ronaldo currently plays on the left side for Real Madrid after playing the majority of his games for Manchester United on the right side. When I travelled to the English Club Crewe Alexandra more than 10 years ago their academy teams systematically rotated their young players through a different position each playing period. If a young player started as a left fullback for the 1st period, they would play central midfield for the 2nd period and then rotated to play as a left winger for the final period. After every three or four games they would have experienced playing in all positions.

By contrast young North American players would typically play two or three seasons or even more playing in only one or two positions. In my opinion this places young North American players at a significant disadvantage. They do not learn all aspects of the game, nor are they exposed to the opportunities to solve different problems on the field. It can also limit their opportunities later on to join higher-level teams, as coaches may have established players in “their” positions.

Young players can gain an advantage over other players by playing in multiple positions and accelerating their knowledge of the game.

Player Tips: Be open to play in multiple positions. In fact, seek these opportunities out to improve your knowledge of the game
Coaches Tips: Develop intelligent and well-rounded players by exposing your players to multiple positions. This will benefit their game knowledge more than teaching tactics to them at young ages
Parent Tips: Encourage your child to embrace change and try different positions. Successfully being able to adapt to change is a major component of being successful in todays modern game. Your child will benefit enormously from learning these skills at a young age

Performance Improvement Tip # 26: Develop your balance – it is an important skill often overlooked

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sprywpressBalance is an important skill to develop for young players. Players are required to complete soccer tasks balanced on one leg. Passing, receiving, shooting, crossing and dribbling are all completed while balancing on one leg. Many players and coaches overlook balance and take it for granted. However, it is like any other skill – it has to constantly worked on and improved in order to improve performance. The best players in the world all have great balance and this allows them to complete soccer specific skills and movements at high speed, without losing their footing.

“Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady”

There are a few key considerations that players must keep in mind in order to retain good balance:

  • Keep their center of gravity low.  This can be achieved by young players adopting a posture where they are on their toes, leaning forward and having their knees bent.
  • The arms should be used to create leverage for the rest of your body to maintain balance, but arms should not be waving all over the place.
  • When in possession of the ball, young players should take smaller steps and increase the number of times that they touch the ball.

Developing leg strength is ultimately one of the most important things in developing balance. In terms of developing the physical attributes of players I am an advocate of UEFA staff coach educator and Sports Consultant, Roger Spry. Roger has worked with Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger and his innovative approach to training incorporates martial arts and dance.   Rather than focus on traditional athletic ability, his work emphasizes creativity, physical agility, dexterity and the ability to add disguise. Roger refers to his work as “technical conditioning” and much of the work can be done with the ball.

Young players can implement many of Roger’s training activities in their own individual training program and enclosed below are some videos that can be used to improve leg – strength and balance.

Performance Improvement Tip: Lessons from Dennis Bergkamp

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dennis-berkamp-v2-0Dennis Bergkamp is widely regarded as one of the finest and most creative players to play in the English Premiership League.  He joined Arsenal in 1995 and helped the club to win three Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies, and reach the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final. With the Netherlands national team, Bergkamp scored 37 goals in 79 appearances and helped his team to two semi-finals of major competitions – the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship. At the individual level, Bergkamp finished third twice in the FIFA World Player of the Year award and was selected by Pelé as one of the FIFA 100 greatest living players. In 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, the first and so far, only Dutch player ever to receive such honour. Bergkamp is currently assistant-manager at Ajax (Holland) and has previously worked in the clubs famed youth academy.

So what were some of the attributes that made Bergkamp such a great player and the key attributes in young players that he has identified as a coach?

Constant strive for Perfection. His teammate at Arsenal Robin Van Persie recalled working with Bergkamp as they both worked their way back from injury. He recalled that in a 45 minute technical passing and shooting session Bergkamp did not make one mistake – he did everything one hundred percent, to the maximum of his ability. He shot as hard as possible and his passing and control was decisive and direct.

 

Enjoy the process of practicing and getting better. As a young child, Bergkamp used to kick a ball against a wall and try new things – the inside of the foot, outside of the foot and laces. He changed the rhythm from fast and slow and made the ball spin. He recalls being fascinated how the ball bounced off the wall and enjoying the mechanics of doing it and the pleasure he got from practicing.

 

Be unique. When coaching a young Luis Suarez at Ajax, Bergkamp recalled that Suarez was always looking to create something and was always thinking how to gain an edge over his opponents.  At the Ajax academy, Bergkamp saw many good, tidy, technical players but felt, unlike Suarez, they weren’t special, flexible or creative.  His definition of the best players are the ones who adjust to the situation they’re given in the best way.   

 

Demonstrate hunger and desire.  By his own admission, Bergkamp was driven. He does not understand why he was but knows that as a player he set himself goals and targets. And once he achieved those he wanted to raise the bar and go further. Once he climbed one mountain (goal/target) he wanted to see the next one. He said that his drive was more based on passion, than ambition and that he always had to do the difficult thing and once that was achieved, then he has to do the next difficult thing. He felt that to not do things that way, would have been a betrayal of his deepest self.

 

Focus on individual skills versus Tactics.  Bergkamp is a firm advocate of not thinking about teams anymore in terms of youth development. Youth development he feels is all about developing individual players and that must be the focus. He feels that teaching young players tactics before the age of 14 makes no sense – it just goes in one ear and out the other. A better approach he feels is to focus on developing young players with great technique, who have good habits. He also feels that the mental aspect must be developed with young players so that they are intelligent and have good values as people.

 

Source: Dennis Bergkamp – Stillness and Speed  

 

Player Tips: Develop a genuine passion for practicing and making yourself better.

 

Coach Tips: Focus your work on developing talented individual players, rather than focusing on building teams who will achieve short-term outcome goals such as winning  

 

Parent Tips: Support and help foster your child’s passion and love of the game. Ensure that they are in a positive learning environment where this will be developed and supported

Performance Improvement Tip # 25: Don’t be a slave to team results

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messi-betterIt is very important that young players gain control over their emotions during the development process. They need to be capable of handling success in a reflective and positive manner. One risk is that they will become a slave to team results and focus on that. With that comes the emotional highs and lows that often comes with winning and losing games.

The pursuit of winning games and thus promoting teams to higher and higher levels of play, by parents and coaches continues to hold back the progress of youth development in North America. Governing bodies are beginning to introduce the philosophy of “long-term development” yet there is reluctance to abandon the practice of keeping scores, and a continued willingness to measure youth success by the number of wins a team has amassed over its season.

At professional club academies in Europe, the objective is to educate and develop as many players as possible for higher levels of play. Academy coaches at such legendary teams as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Santos do not concern themselves with winning games, and nor should they. What does concern these teams is ensuring that as many of their young players as possible have the skills required to succeed at higher levels of the game in the future. Young players need to adopt this philosophy and think long-term with their development and not be a slave to team results!

Many people are surprised that players who grow up playing in successful teams frequently do not reach the higher levels when they leave those strong teams. That’s because as they get older, they become more and more dependent on talented players around them. The situation changes when they go on trial at professional clubs overseas. If young players do not develop the ability to overcome adversity during game situations, embrace it and channel it into becoming better, they simply will not be able to play at the highest levels.

But people often ask me, “Doesn’t it make sense that a young player in a good team will simply get better and better by training with this team, since the overall strength of the team will pull them up to higher levels?” Not necessarily. I see several coaches who focus their time on building “super teams.” The team spent practice after practice running through patterns of play that could be used in games. The players rarely spend any time, even at this young age, developing their individual skills.

Personally, I feel that players on teams like this, who “stroll” through games easily and do not have experience with different coaches and players, will struggle to reach their full potential. At some point the inevitable happens and they will have to leave the comfort of their long-time team and try to play in another — often higher-level — side. When results supersede the vision of developing technically excellent and innovative players with exceptional decision-making skills, then the opportunity for individual development is compromised.

Players aged 9-12 must be placed in challenging, stimulating and interesting environments where technical development remains the key consideration. At times, players must “struggle” through this development path and work hard to develop a “thirst” for mastering the ball. Young players must be encouraged to play in several different positions and start to become students of the game!

There are just too many training hours and skills to learn to be focused on the highs and lows of winning games!

Performance Improvement Tip # 24: Foster your passion for the game

vardyI firmly believe that the players who have a true love of the game have a greater chance to play at the highest levels. Training is, after all, hard work! There will be inevitable set-backs along the way such as injury, loss of form or being rejected. Players like Jamie Vardy of Leicester City who was released by Sheffield Wednesday at sixteen, had a deep passion for the game and kept working hard and learning. After spending many years in the lower leagues, Vardy signed for Leicester City in the Championship for a non-League record transfer fee of £1 million. He helped the team win the Championship in 2014 and in the 2015–16 Premier League season, he scored in eleven consecutive Premier League matches, breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record to win the Premier League Player of the Season award as outsiders Leicester won the title. Vardy made his international debut in June 2015 and was selected for the England squad for UEFA Euro 2016.

“Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion, compelling enthusiasm or desire for anything” 

It is a hot topic in many soccer circles: What attributes do coaches look for in identifying good players? All of us do have differing opinions but there are several common attributes that coaches at the higher levels are looking for. Many people would assume that physical attributes like speed and technical ability would be at the top of any list. But contrary to popular belief, attitude and the ability to learn are key factors.

If you do have the correct attitude and the ability and willingness to learn it does not matter how talented you are. You simply will not be capable of playing at the higher levels of the game. I have watched academy training sessions at professional clubs in Europe where the most talented players technically have not followed the assigned warm-up, only played at the level they are capable of in small bursts and moaned at teammates around them. It is these players that are quickly passed over. The manager and coaching staff, after all, are looking for players they can count on, game in and game out, over a long stretch of time and not just in bursts.

For coaches, it can be the most frustrating aspect of your work to feel that you have not helped players play to their full potential. However, only players who want to learn can he helped. These are the players who understand that they want to learn in order to get better and have a deep passion for the game. They are open to taking new information on board, trying new things in training and then trying to apply these in game situations.

Talk to many professional players and they will tell you that their path to play at the highest levels of the game was paved with obstacles, in the form of many players who were judged at some point to be more talented than they were. Many of these players eventually fell by the wayside. They lost their passion for the game and were no longer prepared to make the sacrifices required. They stopped learning and the others around them elevated their level of play to move above them.

Players like Vardy had to work very hard to get where they are and have a good work ethic to keep learning and stay at the top of their game. One partner club academy Wolves FC defines 5 main attributes that they look for in young players. To be a successful player at Wolves, players are required to have the following qualities: 

  • Take responsibility for your own attitude at all times. Ensure you set high standards both on and off the field of play.
  • Ability to handle the ball under pressure. To prepare to play at the very highest level — a high level of proficiency will be required in this area.
  • Ability to learn. The Academy represents a school of football, on this basis, you must be able to take on board information and apply it in training and in games.
  • Players must have their own vision of the game. The very best players see “pictures” before anybody else. You will have to display a certain level of game intelligence.
  • Whether you are attacking or defending, winning or losing, playing well or poorly, regardless of opposition or playing surface, in wind, rain, sleet or snow, you must have a desire to play the game

Some of these may surprise you, because they don’t focus too much on the actual physical aspects of play. But regardless of a player’s level, good coaches look at what a young player can become, rather than the players they are today.

It is a long journey to reach the highest levels of the game. If players wish to learn and apply themselves, then they are capable of maximizing their potential.  A deep passion for the game should be fostered so that the inevitable sacrifices will be made in order to keep going.

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Performance Improvement Tip# 23: Maximize your potential – join the best learning environment

la-massaWhen everyone thinks of the most successful youth environments in recent history we think of the players that have been developed at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and the Manchester United class of 92.

La Masia was an old Catalan farmhouse, built in 1702 and in 1979, Barcelona began to house its young footballers who originated from outside Barcelona. The idea for the youth academy was proposed by the late, great Johan Cruyff. Pep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Lionel Messi, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are some of its most successful graduates.

Like Johan Cruyff, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to continue the tradition of successfully developing young players at Manchester United. Even though the 1st team were not the most successful initially Ferguson committed to developing a talented group of home grown players. They became known as the “Class of 92”. They were a group of six players who came up through the youth system ranks and all six eventually became key starters for Manchester United, during their historic treble-winning season in 1998-99 when they won the Champions League. The six players were David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes.

It is no coincidence that these players were developed at these clubs. Both clubs historically are heavily committed to youth development.  In the beginning, both Cruyff and Ferguson regularly worked with these young players as they progressed through the youth ranks. My advice to any young player is to ensure that you are part of a progressive, learning environment. Being part of this type of environment, rather than winning trophies or playing for the most successful youth sides, is much more important for long-term development. Would young players rather win trophies or titles at 12-16 or become the best player that they are capable of becoming? This is a question that they have to ask themselves.

So what are the key characteristics of a learning environment where young players can maximize their potential? Research consistently outlines the following principles for the most effective learning environments:

  • Is learning (performance goal) the main goal versus winning games (outcome goal)?
  • Is progress evident – is there performance measurements in place (like testing) to illustrate performance improvements?
  • Is each player catered for individually?
  • Is failure tolerated, are mistakes encouraged and considered an important part of learning?
  • Is it a supportive environment for the player as a person?
  • Are the development steps evident? Are their building blocks in place so that once one performance goal is reached, then the next one is presented?
  • Are their role models/mentors to learn from?
  • Competition is not the main focus – long -term development is emphasized versus short-term competitive gains

Player Tip: Choose performance improvement over short-term competitive wins

Coach Tip:  Does your training environment reflect this check list?

Parent Tip: Help your child find the best long-term learning environment and avoid switching programs every year

References:

Lyle, John. Postgraduate MSc Performance Coaching Program, University of Stirling, lecture notes September, 2016

Race, Phil (2005), conditions for effective learning www.phil-race.co.uk/

The Science of Learning – www.deansforimpact.org

 

Performance Improvement Tip # 22: Understand your starting position and roles on the field

tacticsboardThe development of young players is much more successful when they understand what is required of them. I advocate that up to U15 young players tactical training should be restricted to developing awareness on the field. In effect, what space can be exploited and decision-making should be developed around what technical skills and movement should be used to exploit this space.  Game formats should progress from 4v4, all the way up to the 11v11 game.

Again, I do believe that it is the individual players responsibility to fully understand the demands of the role (s) that they are being asked to play on game days. If they are not sure then I would encourage them to ask the questions. At the very minimum, young players should understand their starting positions and how the demands of their role changes, based on whether their team is in possession (attacking) or out of possession (defending).

Included below are some templates that can help young players prompt discussions with their own coaches so that they can better understand their role (s). The key questions are:

·       What is my starting position?

·       What is my positioning when we win possession?

·       What is my positioning when we lose possession?

·       What are they key demands of the position I am playing?

 

Our examples are based on the 11v11 format and coaches do have different philosophies and styles of play. However, these templates can hopefully be a basis for discussion for all formats and styles of play. Coaches should be happy that their young players are taking a pro-active approach to fully understanding what is being asked of them in game situations. This can only help to accelerate the learning and overall performance of young players.

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