The young players that we coach all have dreams — and of course they should have! When they are young, everything really is possible and we as talent development coaches must provide environments where young players dare to dream. Aspiring young Messis should watch the Argentinian star on television go on mazy dribbles, beat 4 or 5 defenders and stick the ball in the back of the net…and believe that they can do the same!
Young players today cannot ask for better “coaching demos” than Lionel Messi playing for Barcelona every week.Young players can watch him onYouTube and then want to be like him.This is where we come in.
It is our responsibility to provide an environment where young players can try new moves, without a fear of failure! When I was growing up in Northern Ireland, we would watch games on TV and immediately run out of the house with a ball under our arms to try our countryman George Best’s latest move. Children don’t play in the street as much nowadays so we as coaches are responsible for facilitating and encouraging this “self-discovery” learning in a more structured environment.
“Take our 30 day challenge and prepare yourself to excel in one of our international Player ID Camps this summer – with pathways to professional club opportunities”
Self-expression forms a major component of our warm-up at every session. Players are encouraged to show their latest moves, and to challenge themselves to try new things. And we should always make a “big deal” about making mistakes and “being on the edge” They should be praised for that. As The Talent Code author Daniel Coyle has mentioned many times in his work, we want youngsters “reaching” and struggling to be on the edge.That’s how they get better.
As the players get a little older, around 10 years of age, more competitive opportunities start opening up for them. MLS academies start looking at players as do the more competitive youth clubs. Players at this age can also participate at ID camps hosted by top European clubs. It is a good age for learning as the players are still very open to new ideas, are not afraid to try new things, and generally speaking are like sponges.They also are still young enough to dream big!
In North America it is important to talk openly to these young players about all their options. In more mature soccer nations in Europe the “pathways” are very well mapped out and typically involve trying to get identified by a professional club’s academy. In Canada, there are fewer options at the professional levels because we have fewer pro teams. There are only three professional club MLS Academies in Toronto,Vancouver and Montreal. This year in Canada we have a new professional league. However, there is no youth development framework currently in place at those clubs.
Outside the professional club environments parents in Canada have several options. There are OPDL clubs, several private academies playing across several leagues and community youth clubs as well as provincial and national team programs.
Parents and players can get quickly overwhelmed with the menu of opportunities and start chasing all of them, often several at once.Then the players start training and playing 6-7 days a week and an important part of their development is being compromised. Time is spent sitting in cars, when the young player should be out on a field, with a ball at their feet, improving their skills and having fun!
The focus should not be about the next or latest opportunity. The emphasis should only be about getting a young player on a “pathway of learning” to make him or a better player.
If we can do that and keep the focus on learning versus the “achievement” of whether players have been selected for an OPDL team, the provincial team ,or an MLS academy, then we are doing what is truly best for young players and their families.The greatest achievement for young players in soccer is simply getting better at it! There is no better gift that we as coaches can give our players than that.
It is important that young players set goals, that they have dreams and are prepared to be dedicated and invest in their own learning to achieve those dreams. If players focus on improving their skills and overall performance levels then good opportunities will then find them.
RANGERS Soccer Schools are delighted to announce a new three-year partnership agreement with Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching. This will consist of camps, tours and coach education activities.
The organisation, based in Ancaster in Ontario, Canada, places a focus on individual player development and providing young North American players with pathways overseas.
UEFA A licensed coach Ian McClurg launched the organisation in 2012 after previously establishing 1v1 Soccer FC as one of Canada’s leading privately owned academies.
Rangers’ International Soccer Schools Executive, Gary Crooks, said: “Ian’s a highly knowledgeable and qualified coach.
His passion to develop the players within his academy was evident throughout our discussions and we are delighted to supplement the good work that is currently being carried out.
“Canada has become a key market for the International Soccer Schools and there have been a number of key factors, such as the announcement that Canada will be one of the three countries to host the 2026 World Cup.
“Also, the change in their youth academy structure has seen a real appetite for local clubs to develop their programs and use our expertise for the years to come.”
More information on Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching can be found on Twitter (@ianmcclurglearnperform), Facebook (@ianmcclurglearnperformcoaching) and Instagram (Ian_mcclurg_learn_perform).
A few days ago I reposted on social media an article about the success that Belgium have enjoyed (they are currently ranked #1 in FIFA world rankings) by focusing on developing the individual player rather than focus on building winning teams. Read Full Article
It is a topic that has dominated and defined my work as a youth coach. In my book, Play the 1v1 Way! I wrote an article titled ” It’s about the individual player (Surprise, Surprise!)” which I have reposted below.
Belgium is a small nation of only 11 million people, yet it has developed world class players such as Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City ), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) and Toby Alderweireld (Spurs). In addition, they are now ranked # 1 in the FIFA world rankings ahead of larger and more illustrious soccer nations such as Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Argentina and England.
According to Belgium’s Director of Coach Education, Kris Van Haegen, what has been achieved in Belgium football in the last 15 years can be accomplished anywhere – in any club, federation or team because it does not require money – just a change in mentality!
Haegen argues that the individual player must be central in any development process and that youth coaches must adopt the same mentality as an individual sports coach in tennis, for example, where the emphasis is on making the individual better in all aspects of performance – technique/tactical/physical and mental!
That philosophy is central to the Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching program and players can now participate in 30, 60 and 90 day programs exclusively focused on improving their individual performance levels in all aspects of the game. LEARN MORE
How many more youth clubs, federations or teams will embrace this concept and focus on individual player development verses developing teams to win?
It’s about the individual player (Surprise, Surprise!) – from our 2014 book “Play the 1v1 Way!”
OK. Let’s get something clear right from the kickoff: If we are going to produce successful players, we as coaches and parents must put them at the central point of learning! Our focus, as coaches, must always remain on the technical, tactical, physical and mental development of the individual. Every child that enters any sport’s training program must one day leave the program, not only a better player, but more importantly, a better person. The player’s academic education must work hand-in-hand with their learning as a player.The top soccer clubs in the world such as Barcelona have long held that manners, values and education are very important components of a young player’s development. Now, that approach has to filter down to the grassroots levels of the game.
That may seem obvious. But many coaches and parents seem to think all players are the same, meaning that every young person’s development will follow the same path. In my experience and in the experience of many top professional players, that is simply not true. Players learn at different paces, and respond differently to training. Often, human development factors like physical and emotional maturity, rather than pure soccer skills development, influence their status and progress amongst their peers.
It seems that at earlier and earlier ages we are trying to identify talent and make decisions on the level a younger player will reach.. But for the most part, this is not useful. I remember Arsène Wenger, the manager of the great English club Arsenal and one of the best developers of young soccer talent, once stating that if someone looks at a player younger than 14 and tells them you that he or she will become a professional earlier than 14, they are lying. I often relate that quote when talking to parents or other coaches about a player’s “future success”, because, for many years in the development cycle, you simply can’t tell.You see little indications along the way, but never a definite indication of how far young players can go until the age of 16-18.
Over the years, we’ve all seen many parents who have given up on their children “making it” as young as ages 7-8, and who, after that, no longer support their child’s interest in the sport. As well, “playing up” in older age groups becomes the barometer for parents to gauge their child’s progress, or as “proof ” that their child is succeeding. Coaches are lobbied, competition amongst parents begins, and the end result is that young players are placed under pressure to perform from a very early age.
Many parents have brought their children to our program and instructed us to “make them more aggressive.” On such occasions I’ve taken the “educational” approach and explained that the most important component for all young players is to master the ball, feel comfortable with it and spend time improving basic skills like dribbling, 1v1 moves, turning, passing and shooting.Young players must be placed in situations where they are allowed to try things, use their imagination, and more importantly, enjoy the game and have fun! If they are not enjoying it, guess what? That’s right: they are not going to spend any time next week with a ball at their feet!
There have been many of our more skilled players who have participated in skills classes for several years before they’ve become comfortable in games. One of our young players, aged 6, had a very placid personality and used to run away from the ball and turn his back whenever it came to him. He spent well over a year being very methodical in learning skills such as the step-over but was never confident enough to try the moves playing with others in games.Then all of a sudden, in his own time, he started to do drag-backs, step-overs and go on mazy dribbling runs! What happened? The boy did not change his basic temperament, but because of the confidence that he had developed with the ball, he was now playing at a much higher level. His father, in the early days, had focused on his son’s lack of aggression and had asked that we make him more aggressive in 1v1 challenges. But to the father’s credit, he had listened to my advice, kept encouraging his son and was able to enjoy watching the boy’s progress! It was a classic win-win-win situation — for the player, the parent, and the coach!
The development of a young child cannot be fast-tracked without consequences. It makes little sense, except in rare cases, to have a child jump several grades at school, and it’s the same thing for sports development. Nature provides its own built-in development path, and we as soccer coaches have no right to mess with it!
Here’s a great example: When the young North Ireland star George Best signed at age 15 for Manchester United in 1961, United’s legendary Manger Matt Busby instructed his coaching staff to “let the boy develop naturally.” Within two years he was playing in the first team, and within seven years was the best player in European, if not world football! A young Lionel Messi, who emigrated from Argentina to Spain with his family when he was 12, was not “rushed” at Barcelona. Even though he had fantastic talent, he could have likely played for Barca’s first team much sooner. But the coaches at the famous La Masia Academy allowed him to progress gradually like the other young boys, and he was provided with the opportunity to develop as a young person, in tandem with his development as a player.And did he develop!
So, let’s go back to our first premise — that we need to make sure we keep individual player development at the heart of our coaching efforts. Let’s make sure we help our young players grow in all areas, both physical and emotional, and at their own pace. Our job is simply to give them opportunities for that development to happen.
I have often been asked what we do differently at Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching. I must admit it is something that I think about also as we continue to evolve. It is important to me that we retain the same core values as an organization and that we don’t lose sight of why 1v1 Soccer was initially started and the work that we are doing now within our new organization at Ian McClurg Learn Perform.
1v1 Soccer was started back in 2000, because I felt that there were not enough young players in Ontario receiving quality coaching. A small pool of players were chosen to train in the provincial programs and in reality, the program could only cater to a small number of players within a convenient drive time of the training centre at Vaughan.
We aimed to help change that and I do think that we, together with the founding members at SAAC, have contributed to some of the dramatic changes currently underway within Ontario. There are many more training opportunities now available to young Canadian players.
Fast forward to 2019 and my work is now 100 % focused on improving individual players through supplemental training programs that follows a systematic individual player development model:
Assessment: Technical & physical assessments, through our partnership with Soccer Profile we can now accurately benchmark our players technically & physically against academy players at EPPP professional club academies in England such as Liverpool, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion. We can also provide individual player performance video analysis through our partnership with Hudl.
Training: We provide a range of flexible supplemental training programs (1:1, small-group and Elite International) so that players can take greater ownership of their own development. Our aim is that they will attain the same level of “deep practice” in their talent development models than academy players in Europe. The training is delivered by myself – a UEFA A licensed coach/ Masters in Performance Coaching
Place (Perform): We are able to individually place talented and motivated male & female players at professional clubs in Europe (UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy) for international trials, training and playing experiences.
The Top 5 Things that define Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching:
The player must be placed at the central point of learning! Our focus is on the technical, tactical, physical and psychological development of the individual player. Every child that enters our program is expected to leave our program, not only a better player but more importantly a better person. The player’s academic education must work “hand-in-hand” with their learning as a player.
We are an individual skills development company that places emphasis on development of the individual. We emphasize individual creativity and game intelligence of our individual players over regimented team structures and team results .
We aim to provide young Canadian players with similar soccer training experiences to other young players in Europe. Our training model is European academy based and based on my training observations at top European academies such as Wolves & Middlesborough (England), Sevilla, Malaga and RCD Espanyol (Spain), FC Porto (Portugal) and Chievo Verona (Italy)
We have a long-term vision with respect to developing young players. It does many hours of “deep learning practice” to develop an elite athlete and we try to attract young players and families who recognize and are committed to this long-term approach. Not all our players will strive to play the game at the elite level but we do want to provide them with the skills to enjoy the game more at the level they wish to play.
We provide multiple pathways! Our role is to develop and move along our players to higher levels of play and to assist them in their “soccer journey”. These pathways include pathways to professional academies in Europe, US Scholarship opportunities, MLS academies, Canadian Premier League, League 1, Provincial programs and OPDL play.
Influences on My Coaching Philosophy
A great deal of my coaching philosophy has been shaped by my time overseas studying at European academies and the Futsal training I received at Brazilian Soccer Schools. Other talent development visionaries such as Daniel Coyle ( author of The Talent Code), Angela Lee Duckworth (author of GRIT), Dave Collins & Aine MacNamara (author of Talent Development – A Practitioner Guide), Carol Dweck, (author of Mindset) and Ramas Ankersen ( author of The Gold Mine Effect) have also played important roles in helping me define my own coaching philosophy.
Some of my practices may seem unconventional but I am a firm believer that young players must “struggle” in training and that they must be out of their comfort zone to improve. (View Talent Code Video)
I do believe that we must attain a certain standard with respect to our training facilities but I do not believe that facilities necessarily develop superior players. If that was the case, Canada would not have such a poor ranking in the world and George Best, Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo, Messi etc would not be the some of the game’s greatest ever players. I like crowded training areas, where players constantly have to “solve problems” to keep their ball under control and in play. This philosophy is consistent with the development of elite athletes in other sports. Daniel Coyle refers to this as the “Power of Crumminess” . (Read article on the Power of Crumminess)
At Ian McClurg Learn Perform we are not trying to develop the best players in Canada, that to be honest is not good enough! We are trying to develop players that can compete with the best young players overseas. Futsal is an important component of our winter program. Players such as Ronaldo and Messi have all played this and Xavi has recently confirmed how important the game is to development. (Watch Xavi Video)
Long-Term Development for the Individual Player
It remains our philosophy at Ian McClurg Learn Perform to place “individual long-term player development” for all our players ahead of “short-term team development” for a select few. This is a philosophy consistent with professional club academies in Europe, where the objective is to educate and develop as many players as possible for higher levels of play. Academy coaches at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and Santos do not concern themselves with winning games and nor do we. What we do concern ourselves with is ensuring that as many of our young players as possible have the skills required to succeed overseas at professional clubs, within our new Canadian Premier League (CPL), at MLS academies, OPDL and within our provincial and national team programs.
Where we are going to……
As an influential youth coach in England once said “….our job is to develop better and better players……and more and more of them”!
Let’s face it: soccer at all levels is obsessed with short-term results. The history of the game has provided us with several different ways to play. Fans have seen Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal side of the 1930’s (with its classic “W M” Formation), the total football played by Ajax in the 1970s, the Milan pressing game in the late-1980’s, the Barcelona tiki-taka style of play and now the high-press and high-tempo play of Manchester City and Liverpool.
But Barca’s success especially has been the result of rejecting short-term gains in favour of long-term development. The reality is that the “seeds” for the current Barcelona philosophy and style of play were planted 25 years ago by Johan Cruyff
An article by Paul Grech called Exporting the Barca method argued that the real secret of Barcelona’s recent success has been time. I would have to agree with Paul Grech that for lasting player development success, the hard part is not changing or putting in place a new way of doing things but giving those changes and the system time to mature. An entire club must breath and move in the same way.
Enrigue Duran Diaz has spent a decade absorbing the Barcelona philosophy and is currently trying to plant the seed of that distinctive playing style at the South African club Mamelodi Sundown. He argues that for a system like Barcelona’s to be copied then everyone involved must believe in it both in terms of the on-field game, and the core values that surround a club. He also argues that setting up the structure takes time and requires many seasons, which may be contested without success as measured by standings and goals. It is his belief that the Barca model cannot be successful if others are looking to copy it simply to achieve short-term results.
At Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching we are establishing a new philosophy and one that challenges the current norm in Canada for elite soccer development. Our players are encouraged to play across multiple age-groups, play different positions and challenge themselves to get outside their comfort zone to master technical, tactical, physical and psychological strategies that are new to North American players. We know this will take time but believe that the best way to achieve long-term success is to sacrifice the short-term results to develop better players and people who can go on to achieve their soccer goals and be successful in life. We demand respect for our staff, the game officials, the opposition and in the way our players interact with each other. The rules and spirit of the game must be upheld and the parents must be appreciated for giving up so much to support their children.
We encourage our players to do the best they can be at school, and to be good people away from the field. We want to play attractive football, keep possession as a starting point and take the attacking initiative to our opponents. We want to encourage our players to take opponents on, try things and to be comfortable with failing. When we lose the ball we want to win it back quickly so we can attack again.
We want our players to be comfortable on the ball technically, to be capable of making good decisions on the field, to work together and help each other both on and off the field and to learn at each practice and at each game. We want to allow our players to make mistakes, take responsibility for errors, work on learning from these errors and be open to seeking and taking advice to improve. As our philosophy is different, we come across many problems every day that hinder our progress and what we are trying to do. Change can be difficult and the short-term and immediate results focus within football (soccer) will always add significant pressure. We understand that!
The bottom line is that, like Enrique Duran Diaz, I am challenged by focusing only on the things that I have direct responsibility for. The short-term set-backs and frustrations have to be set-aside so that we can successfully continue along our pathway of developing better and better players and more and more of them.
Time and patience are the essential ingredients along the way.
Ian McClurg Learn Perform Coaching is partnering with Hudl Soccer and Soccer Profile to provide young players in North America with a unique Individual Player Development System that will accelerate their performance levels towards a professional playing standard.
By utilizing the Hudl Video Performance analysis system we are able to provide performance analysis feedback to players via an online platform. This analysis is combined with technical and physical performance benchmark testing using Soccer Profile that compares individual player performance to UK players at professional football academies.
We can design a customized individual program for players that includes the following coaching support by a UEFA A licensed coach
Initial video analysis feedback of player in game situation
Technical & Physical Testing
Initial Skype call to establish individual player development goals for next 90 days
Individual 1:1 or small-group training program or home online program
Ongoing technical & physical testing program to track progress
Last weekend, a few of my own players demonstrated several of these key attributes by showing up and training on Easter weekend in heavy rain and hailstones. On a larger scale the performance by Everton against Manchester United last weekend ( a 4-0 win for Everton) proved that talent alone does not predict success. Manchester United operate on a much larger player budget than Everton, have more skilled players yet ran 8 kilometres less than the Everton team! The were totally outworked by Everton and as a results totally outplayed.
Last week I wrote about what it takes to play at the highest levels of the game. Read Article . The article spoke about the importance of ambition, desire, mental toughness and attention as key psychological predictors in defining who would be the top soccer players in the future.
(Everton v Manchester United game statists. Source: Wyscout)
I am a strong advocate of the research work by Dr. Angela Duckworth who developed a 12 question study to measure GRIT. You can take the test here.
The research work by Angela Lee Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed that the most significant predictor of success in kids isn’t social intelligence, good looks, physical health or IQ.
“It’s about having stamina, sticking with your future – day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years – and working really hard to make that future a reality.” (Caroline Adams Miller)
Duckworth argues that the best way to build grit in kids is to develop a “growth mindset”. The growth mindset was developed by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist. Growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn can change with effort. When kids understand the brain grows in response to challenge, they’re more likely to persevere when they fail. They cultivate grit when they know the qualities they need for success can be developed through dedication and effort. Learn More
Grit is defined as passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals and will determine who succeeds at school, in sports and in life in general. GRIT as a key predictor of future success! .
A few years ago, I wrote the following article in my book “Play the 1v1 Way!”. I think it is just as relevant now as it was then.
It is a hot topic in many soccer circles: What attributes do coaches look for in identifying good players? All of us do have differing opinions but there are several common attributes that coaches at the higher levels are looking for.
Many people would assume that physical attributes like speed and technical ability would be at the top of any list. But contrary to popular belief, attitude and the ability to learn are key factors. If you do have the correct attitude and the ability and willingness to learn it does not matter how talented you are.You simply will not be capable of playing at the higher levels of the game.
I have watched academy training sessions at professional clubs in Europe where the most talented players technically have not followed the assigned warm-up, only played at the level they are capable of in small bursts and moaned at teammates around them. It is these players that are quickly passed over. The manager and coaching staff, after all, are looking for players they can count on, game in and game out, over a long stretch of time and not just in bursts. I read an interview recently in FourFourTwo magazine with Liam Brady, who for a long time has masterminded Arsenal’s youth- development system. He admitted that Jermaine Pennant — who has had an inconsistent, checkered career at best as a pro — was in fact the most talented player to come through the famed Arsenal youth program, but never had the discipline to make it with this legendary club.
Talk to many professional players and they will tell you that their path to play at the highest levels of the game was paved with obstacles, in the form of many players who were judged at some point to be more talented than they were. Many of these players eventually fell by the wayside. They stopped learning and the others around them elevated their level of play to move above them.
I firmly believe that the players who have a true love of the game have a greater chance to play it at the highest levels. Training is, after all, hard work! There will be inevitable set-backs along the way such as injury, loss of form or being rejected. Players like Rickie Lambert of the English Premiership side Southampton, who just began to make his mark during the 2012-13 season at the age of 31, spend the majority of their careers in the lower leagues.At one point in his career, Lambert had to support his lower-league income by working in a canning factory. But he kept going, always kept believing in himself, and he’s been rewarded. In summer of 2013, Lambert was even called up to the England team — and scored within seconds of making his debut as a sub against Scotland! It is very likely that he has a strong support system of family and friends around him as well.
Players like Lambert have had to work very hard to get where they are and have a good work ethic to keep learning and stay at the top of their game. At 31, he now plays for England, while some are now doubting how long Wayne Rooney, at 27, can remain at the top level of the game. Who would have guessed that a few short years ago?
One partner club academyWolves FC defines five main attributes that they look for in young players.To be a successful player at Wolves, players are required to have the following qualities:
Take responsibility for your own attitude at all times. Ensure you set high standards both on and off the field of play.
Ability to handle the ball under pressure. To prepare to play at the very highest level — a high level of proficiency will be required in this area.
Ability to learn. The Academy represents a school of football, on this basis, you must be able to take on board information and apply it in training and in games.
Players must have their own vision of the game. The very best players see “pictures” before anybody else.You will have to display a certain level of game intelligence.
Whether you are attacking or defending, winning or losing, playing well or poorly, regardless of opposition or playing surface, in wind, rain, sleet or snow, you must have a desire to play the game
Some of these may surprise you, because they don’t focus too much on the actual physical aspects of play. But regardless
If our youngsters can develop these types of attributes they will get identified and noticed for higher levels of play!
I have always taken a long-term view to player development.
Based on my observations of working with Elite players in North America since 1998 and the study visits I have made to top academy programs in England (Wolves/West Ham), Spain (RCD Espanyol/Sevilla/Malaga), Portugal (FC Porto ) and Italy (Chievo Verona) the top predictors for young players playing at the highest levels of the game are listed below. Predictors are player attributes that professional clubs look for in young players when assessing their potential.
I have validated this information through my studies in a Masters in Performance Coaching program at the University of Stirling in Scotland and my recent studies in Talent Identification through the Professional Football Scouts Association. I have also enclosed below some articles outlining what professional clubs look for in young players.
Gentle contact on the ball
Ability to pass long and short with correct pace/accuracy
Close control of ball when dribbling at pace
Capable of shooting with instep drive and finishing using multiple areas of the foot
Ability to change direction quickly and maintain control of ball in tight spaces
Uses leading edge of foot (small toe) to dribble
Ability to look up when dribbling
Ability to protect the ball
Psychological and Sociological Predictors
Demonstrate confidence by always wanting the ball and looking for opportunities to take on defenders
Ambition and Desire – motivated to do what is required to maximize potential
Mental toughness – capable of overcoming set-set-backs and adversity
Attention – focused and can fully concentrate during every training session/game
Communication – help team-mates through game situations by providing information
Education – good interpersonal skills and well-educated
What Professional Clubs look for when assessing young players
2) Soccer Profile Player ID Camp in Ancaster on July 15-18 : Players will be tested technically & physically and benchmarked against UK academy players at professional clubs (email me directly for details)
3) Fleetwood Town Player ID Camp – direct pathway into professional soccer in UK. August 5-8th in Ancaster. (email me directly for details)
4) Work with me for 3 months in 1:1 sessions with direct placement in Spanish professional clubs in fall 2019
5) RCD Espanyol Player ID Camp in Burlington in Burlington August 31- September 2 (email me directly for details)
6) FC Porto academy trip in October – (email me directly for details)
Please feel free to email me directly at email@example.com if I can assist you in implementing a short and long-term individual player development plan.
“By failing to prepare…..you are preparing to fail”
Technical ability is a base requirement and will ultimately determine how far young players will go in the game. If young players can successfully master the ball, then they will have the confidence to consistently make the right choices and create solutions for themselves, and others on the field.
As young players advance in the game, it is important that young players start learning game intelligence and combining this with technique. This should not be confused with the team tactical work that I see at the youth levels of the game. It is about providing “individual players” with the tools to consistently scan the field of play and look for the space that they can exploit during play.
What qualities do the world’s top clubs look for when evaluating young players? They generally begin to consider players as young as 7 but cannot invite them into formal training programs until the U9 level (that is, at the age of 8). Spain has been the leader in recent years with respect to youth development. During my trip to Spanish club Sevilla FC in 2011 they confirmed that they look initially for good technique and pace. They then look for young players who understand the game. On the field, are these kids looking around at all their options? Can they make intelligent runs into open space? Can they make correct choices when to dribble and when to combine with teammates?
These same qualities are highly prized by our partner club in the UK, Wolves FC, although they will generally pay greater intention to the physical characteristics of players, as in England the physical demands on players are generally much higher than in Spain. According to the English FA’s Technical Guide for Young Player Development — The Future Game, young players of the future will be required to release the ball accurately and instantly over a variety of distances using both feet and on any surface. A quality first touch will be critical as will the ability to operate successfully in congested areas with speed and precision. Retaining possession will be a key feature of play for Elite players and so will possessing the “craft” to disguise techniques and “out-smart” their direct opponents.
The ability to exchange passes quickly and accurately with teammates on a consistent basis will increase in importance as a player gets older, rather than repeatedly taking players on in 1v1 attacking situations. As players mature they will have to demonstrate their ability to decide what to do and when to do it within the demands of game situations.
Spain, in recent years has best demonstrated the success that good technique and game intelligence can have against more physical opposition. Every player on the team, regardless of his position, has a flawless first touch, knows how to move the ball quickly, makes sound, quick decisions in all phases of the game and is willing to combine all these qualities with his teammates to form a team that is the only one in soccer history to have won three major titles in a row.
A combination of good technique and game intelligence can take our young players to higher levels of the game. I often tell the tale of Pep Guardiola being chosen for Barcelona — the club team that has supplied most of the players to the Spanish national side — as a skinny, slow youngster because of his leadership qualities and game intelligence which far outweighed his speed and or other physical attributes at an early age. Guardiola was able to go on and play at the highest levels of the game and now is one of the world’s most innovative coaches.R
Tips for Players: Young players should read this series of articles and then watch games on television and try to identify when teams are applying these principles. Become students of the game!
Tips for Coaches: Coaches can use Rondo’s within your training activities. Rondo’s allow your players to play, improve technique and you can teach the basis of attacking principles – length/width/depth
Tips for Parents: As a parent you can provide more support to your child and the coach by learning more about the game also. Like your own child-become a student of the game.