Player development is the act or process of developing; unfolding; a gradual growth or advancement through progressive changes…
While teaching at the National Youth License course, hosted by Florida Youth Soccer Association, in beautiful Weston, Fla., on the January 2-6.of Jan 2007, the topic of much discussion was on player development. My thoughts on this subject and discussion to follow, is a summary of comments from Mike Strickler, Florida State Youth Soccer Director of Coaching, Virgil Stringfield, Assistant Director of Coaching for Florida and Bill Buren one of the writers of the National Youth License and the candidates in attendance at the course.
I think a majority of young players become what they were always going to be largely by their own efforts and a lot of encouragement and information from coaches. Playing as many matches as possibly will not alter that fact, nor will playing in more tournaments or conducting more or longer training sessions.
What can we do to help the process, foster a love for the game and allowing talent to develop in a sane environment means an appropriate number of matches and training sessions for the age group. The idea that the game is the great teacher is very true but misunderstood and misapplied. Some believe the more matches the better. This is not true, in fact fewer games the better for youngsters. The game will show a player how he or she has progressed or what they need to work on to improve. The game should teach players how to play before they are asked to compete for wins.
Approximately 0.01 percent will make it onto a national team be it youth, Olympic or the full National Team, according to the NCAA. The NCAA also estimates that only two percent of high school players in all sports will go on to play in college. Soccer is a long-term athletic development sport. Starting to play on teams when barely out of diapers will not amend this fact of the time needed to grow physically and psychologically to become an accomplished player.
While the players are in primary and secondary school, the adults caring for their soccer experience and controlling their soccer environment must be patient with an eye to long-term goals as well as short-term objectives. The coach must allow the player the freedom to develop by learning from millions of experiences. The coach must resist the temptation to interrupt the players, realizing that learning takes place by experiencing the game.
Coaches should not try to solve every problem in each session. Coaches need to understand that development whether individual or team is a long-term process. They also should understand that players can only assimilate a little information at a time, so they should choose their comments carefully. In the end, it does not matter what the coach knows or says it only matters what the players can receive and put in to action.
One of the best chances a coach has to develop a player is to insure that they love the game. Make players part of the process and make all decisions concerning player development around the idea of player centered decisions.