Next week I am sitting for the National Youth License. It is a multi-day licensing clinic (Tuesday through Saturday). There is a lot of prerequisite reading (which I love) and one of the documents on the coaching clipboard is about Player Development. I have posted on this before and I think it is an interesting topic. Here are a few quotes from the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model (Feb. 2012). Players are divided into three Zones (Zone 1, ages 6-12, Zone 2, ages 13-17, and Zone 3 18+). Here is what the manual says about Zone 1:
Zone 1 has a technical emphasis that is accomplished by focusing on player development versus match outcome. The intent is for coaches, administrators and parents of the players to spotlight the process of playing the game, rather than the score. The measurement of success in Zone 1 is the players’ improvement of ball skills, understanding of the rules of the game, playing fairly and learning general game principles. (page 9)
Too often at these ages results matter more than players. Teams matter more than players. When we place the importance of the team over the individual, are we helping the player? I think soccer is leagues ahead of baseball on this. In Select baseball and youth league baseball, for example, there is no training or organization to remind the coaches and parents of this. It is a win first mentality not matter the harm to the kids, his arm, or his interest. At least in soccer, we have a system of education to address this issue. Here is another goodie:
Too often coaches concentrate on a team formation to the exclusion of essential developmental needs. A common question is, “What is the best formation to win?” Some coaches are quick to permanently place a player in a specific position. That is an erroneous decision. In fact, many coaches teach the game by position. This approach has an over emphasis on a particular system of play and the team formation to execute that system. Systems are not the focus, but rather the framework. The decisive factor is the player and his or her individual qualities, specifically technical expertise. Players must be given the chance to play every position in soccer to deepen their understanding of the game. While it takes more coaching talent to do so, teaching positioning prior to the roles of positions in a formation develops anticipation players. Do not lock players in a position! (page 16, Systems of Play)
This material can be found at the US Youth Coaching website. It requires a membership fee to join but you gain access to practice models, drills, teaching aides, etc. Here is the link: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/coaches/Coaches_Connection/. I encourage everyone interested in coaching soccer to join.