July 18, 2007
What The "10-Year Rule" Should Teach Us
Koach Karl - Here's part 2 of Gary Allen's article…
Sports history is rife with stories of the experts overlooking players who later, by sheer dint of their own will, became great athletes. In basketball, Michael Jordan was dropped from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. In soccer, Johan Cruyff did not draw attention until after his teen years. In fact, across the board, those trying to predict who will be the future stars have a dismal record. For example, studies in England have shown that less than eight percent of the players picked by the experts to play professional soccer, even at age 18, ever made the grade as day-to-day professional players. With this kind of record, it is important that we recognize that we must pour our time, resources and efforts into a much larger pool of players, and not restrict our focus to those we think have "talent" at the early ages.
The various stages of technical, mental, physical and social development do not necessarily coincide within one individual, let alone in a team of individuals. Thus, while certain physically precocious 12 or 13 year olds might be able to outrun others and win games because of their speed, it would be a mistake to attempt to predict future success in the sport based upon this one aspect and stage of development. Worse, it would be foolish to try to define what successful soccer players look like, or try to select "elite" players, based upon their ability to win games because of their precocious development in one or a few areas.
Yet, this is precisely what we do in the United States. Instead of allowing more players to play in environments that require more varied ways than just speed or size to solve game-like problems, we tend to select out those players we deem to be "elite" at too young an age, and then reinforce the use of the precocious attributes they may possess, by putting them on teams with other players who also may have one or a few precocious attributes.
What the 10-year rule should teach us is that more, rather than selected fewer, young players should be exposed to training and playing together. They should be encouraged through smaller field sizes and smaller numbers per side to develop more varied ways to solve the problems the game presents, as well as to develop better technical ability by touching the ball more in game-like situations.