February 12, 2008
Youth Soccer Coach Wanted: Only Those with Patience and Perseverance Need Apply Part II
Koach Karl continues this articles on Youth Development - Part II
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
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.
"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.