July 26, 2007
Give Players Plenty Of Opportunities To Experiment And Fail
Koach Karl - Here is Part 3 of Gary Allen's article…
"Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence. It is interesting to note that time spent playing chess, even in tournaments, appears to contribute less than such study to a player's progress; the main training value of such games is to point up weaknesses for future study."
This confirms the point that it is primarily through training that players learn, not in match or tournament play. Yet, how many youth coaches, as a "training tool" across the country, load up their schedules with pre-season and mid-season tournaments and multiple scrimmages.
Players must be given plenty of opportunities to experiment and fail; to creatively solve problems in ways that are uniquely suited to their temperaments and abilities. They can only do this to a very limited extent in games. The consequences of a failed experiment in a game cause most players to do only what they think will succeed. If they do experiment and fail, there is a great likelihood that they will be sitting on the bench and not playing. As coaches and parents, we must allow time and opportunity for this experimentation to take place. We cannot be guided by wins and losses that really only provide a snapshot at a particular moment, and do not constitute purposeful training. Games, thus, are not the ends in themselves for younger players, they mainly show the weaknesses at that moment, and provide a guide as to what is needed in training. It is the training environment that should constitute most of exposure players have to the game: training and free play, without the specter of winning or losing affecting a season-long record. Consequently, a much larger percentage of our time should be spent in the training environment, rather than loading up the season with extra tournaments and scrimmages.
In today's youth soccer, there is virtually no nonadult organized free play. Kids don't play pick-up soccer the way many of us played various pickup sports in the neighborhood growing up. We may not realize it, but these types of games provide an integral ingredient to the development of top-class athletes. One of the things most of us forget about the neighborhood games we played growing up is that they were, indeed, competitive. Competing to win each day was extremely important, but once today was over, tomorrow was another day, with a new chance to compete, but without the accumulation of a record and standings in a division. This is predominantly what the 10-year environment must be. Opportunities to experiment, to succeed, to fail, to play and to compete.
Another key aspect to the freedom to experiment present in the neighborhood pickup games that we lack in organized youth soccer today is the challenge of playing with and against many different levels and types of players. As kids, when we picked up teams we did not just take the best five and play against the worst five. It wouldn't have been any fun. Instead, we always tried to create even teams, and if one team was winning handily, we would have mid-game drafts to create more even teams. This gave each of us the opportunity to play with and against different players all the time, and we had to adjust, both individually and collectively, as to how we solved the problems of the game depending on who was on our team and against whom we were playing.
This ability to adjust and change the rhythm of play is something we lack in soccer played in the US. This development is all but lost in youth soccer today because the adults controlling youth soccer currently do exactly the opposite from kids playing pickup games. We try to put all the "best" players on one team so that we can win the division, etc. It is the result, not the development, that is paramount.