3 Lessons for Better Youth Soccer Player Development
April 25, 2023
Ever wonder what some of the most forward thinking professional soccer managers are doing to implement player development in youth academies? The coaches of your club can do the same things to encourage development of your club’s youngest players.
The LeagueApps FC team attended a two-day coaching clinic hosted by our partners from the David Villa 7 Academy. The clinic was run by renowned international manager Juan Carlos Garrido, who is currently the Moroccan club Wydad AC.
Here are three lessons we learned from the clinic that your coaches can implement to inspire better youth soccer player development.
Embrace the 4 Pillars
To develop success at the youth level, international coaches have adapted a basic framework that consists of four pillars. Everything should revolve around these pillars, from formulating long-term and short-term goals, training, even style of play. These four pillars are physical, technical, tactical, and psychological.
This includes everything from a player’s size and strength, to coordination and speed. Arguably, this is the easiest pillar for a coach to gauge. For instance, any coach will know that multiple sprints in a 10-40 yard area is more important than a 2-mile distance run. And with the incorporation of wearables in the youth game, gauging physical development has never been easier.
The technical pillar simply consists of a player’s ability to manage the ball individually. At an early age, this becomes vitally important to the progression of a player’s development. Coaches should plan plenty of practice time on improving the technical skill of players. By the time a youth athlete reaches his or her teenage years, there should be a fluid relationship with the ball that is second nature.
The tactical pillar can be trick for clubs and coaches to optimize player development. It’s important to recognize that introducing a tactical strategy at a young age just to increase wins can be dangerous for a player’s development. Sometimes this happens as a result of appeasing parents in the short term, rather than focusing on long-term goals for the player.
Instead, Juan Carlos says, the tactical pillar at a young age involves around learning the game while implementing the technical skills, such as ball movement or finding and creating space. Always encourage parents and players to remember that the learning aspect of the game never ends throughout the careers.
“Players should understand that they play to learn and they must learn to play. It’s the club’s responsibility to educate the players, and even more so the parents, this lesson at a young age,” said Director of Soccer Partnerships Bryan Alcantara.
After players understand this at a young age, the tactical strategies and philosophies are easier to implement as they get older.
Coaches must understand that they have a massive impact on a child’s mental aspect of the game. Players need to learn at a young age that if they want to perform a certain way on the weekend, then their training needs to match that.
At the same time, players’ confidences can be boosted or shattered by coaches. Find the right mix in tough drills to build skills and challenge the players vs easy drills to build confidence. And always, always remember that failing at a young age is ok.
Teach Players to Play Multiple Positions
Another lesson to learn from Mr. Garrido, DV7, and the entire Spanish soccer philosophy is the necessity to teach youth athletes to play several different positions. This is most important when the game’s basics are being taught and players are still learning at a young age how to play.
Players need to be exposed to different positions to fully develop all aspects of their game. Emphasizing one position for certain players at a young age can really have long-term negative effects on their development.
“A kid who had an early growth spurt plays great as a center back winning headers simply because he’s bigger,” said Soccer Partner Consultant Brian O’Hara. “Three years later everyone is now taller than him or her, the advantage is taken away, and he or she doesn’t have the technical and tactical ability to play another position.”
Encourage Risk Taking
The game is unpredictable. Players should look for perfection but accept that they may not get it. Teach your players to learn to accept mistakes. The easiest way to do that is to encourage young players to take risks and not be afraid of getting creative, especially during games.
As an 8-year-old, it’s only natural to be self-absorbed. A coach that is constantly telling a player to pass will only understand that style of play by the time he or she is in their teens. By emphasizing risk taking to the youngest of players, they will fail more often during games and practices. Then, your job as a coach or club director is to make everyone understand how to overcome those failures.
“As a coach you must promote individual talent at a young age,” Bryan added. “Ask them to take risks and just try things. In the end, you’ll have players in your club that are more confident and have more ability when the time has come to start looking at colleges.”
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