Youth player development is an ongoing process. Young players at academy programs in Europe spend over 10 hours a week developing their technical, tactical, physical and mental performance levels.
Our objective is to assist young North American players reach higher level of performance and challenge young players in Europe for professional playing opportunities and US Scholarships. We hope that our weekly tips help several young players maximize their full potential on their soccer journey .
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Technique – What to focus on to play at the highest levels
In the future, the best players will be those who can excel in a fast-paced environment. There will be even greater demands on technique, tactical understanding and physical conditioning. Players today are faster and cover greater distances than previous generations. Passing combinations are faster and there is an increased importance on controlling possession. More goals are scored through quick counter-attacking play and decision-making is of critical importance.
So what technical skills should young players focus on if they are to reach the higher levels of the game?
Young players should continually work on their dribbling ability, passing and receiving and how to successfully execute individual skills under the pressure of time, space, and an opponent.
-Dribbling: Take risks! Develop your moves to beat an opponent
-Improve your ability to keep possession. Work on shielding, spin turns and changes of speed and direction to get away from opponents
-Receiving: Work on the ability to receive and have a quality 1st touch – when receiving on the ground and in the air. Receiving using all surfaces should be developed
-Shooting: Proper striking technique from different angles should be worked on and taking shots on the volley and half-volley with both feet
-Passing: Proper technique – Laces, Inside, Outside, Short and Long; Crossing
-Heading: Jumping to head
-Tackling: Proper technique, in balance, no fear.
Technical Training Video of the week
Tactical – Be prepared to press, persist and possess
The modern game is one of flexibility. The game is more fluid than ever and the top teams now deploy “inverted full-backs and wingers”, false number 9s and ball-playing goalkeepers to deal more effectively with retaining possession and winning it back quickly. The game today resembles more and more the sport of basketball where the winning team typically is the one that has managed transitions between attack/defence better.
Physical – Improve your stamina
Interval training is a good training approach to improve stamina. Top players are running between 7 to 9.5 miles per game and it is very important that young players are in a training program that will allow them to reach that level of performance as adults. Players that have not reached puberty should focus on mastering their technical skills and can develop fitness through small-sided games and playing. However, players who have went through puberty can begin to develop their aerobic capacity – see tips from former professional player Scott Parker .
Mental – Self Assess your Performance
An important part of youth development is developing the entire person — not just the soccer player. We expect young people to go onto the field of play and make smart, correct decisions by themselves — so it is vital that we begin to develop these qualities early in their development.
When I talk to academy coaches across Europe or professional scouts they place a large emphasis on the psychological attributes of young players when evaluating potential. Is the player self-motivated, taking responsibility for their own development, has a strong mentality to overcome set-backs and do they have a strong capacity to learn?