Have you stopped to think what typical weekly schedule includes for a young footballer? When you do you might start to reconsider some traditional thinking like:
This is roughly a typical week for a junior footballer:
Football club coaching, football private coaching, football school coaching, football representative coaching, school, homework, music lessons, tutor, sleep, eat, downtime. Repeat.
When you look at a schedule like that - notice there isn’t even time for socialising with friends - it becomes difficult to justify those earlier statements. Here are some questions we think need to be asked instead of repeating the same thoughts:
Let’s have a look at what good comes from this mentality and process, whilst also weighing up questionable downsides.
1) Developing habits
Positives of developing habits
Negatives of developing habits
2) Appropriate consequences for young people
Reality checks, common sense and coach education are critical here. Who is good enough at 8 years old? Will they improve or learn anything by not playing? What is gained and what is lost by limiting the playing time of a young player? Will you be touted as the next manager of the Socceroos because you won the U8 competition undefeated?
3) Skill development
Positives of skill development
Negatives of skill development
4) Access to professional learning environments
Positives of having access to professional learning environments
Negatives of having access to professional learning environments
In fact, there are some excellent players who have developed very well with very little coaching up to a certain age, they tend to learn many of their skills solely through playing with friends or on their own for fun.
It’s definitely important to learn from a good coach, and very often the debate that Barcelona youth or Bayern Munich youth train ‘x’ times per week is brought up. Which is great, but it again comes down to context. What does their day, month, year look like? Do they have control over the rest of the players schedules? I’ve seen it several times, people trying to recreate what the best in the world with only a small piece of the puzzle regarding how they implement their long-term development strategy.
5) Creating a fun environment
Positives of creating a fun environment
Negatives of creating a fun environment
Should this situation change?
Will there be any changes? Do we even need any changes? Should there be more freedom, fun and exploration?
Or, should it be even more rigid, professional with more hours dedicated to structured practice with a coach?
From regular discussion with coaches it appears that many believe there is a better way. It no doubt requires additional education for coaches, teachers, parents and players to make it more effective with a blend of art, science and common sense.
What way you believe is best to develop a youth player is a matter of opinion. Just be sure to keep the physiological and psychological facts in mind.
Finally, there will be a life at some point that doesn’t include full time football in it which children must have in their mind whilst going through the development process. Provide them with the tools to prepare for their chosen career path when the footballing career is over!
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