The giant step to the elite team
We all know some examples. Players which exellerate every single weak at the youth squad. They take immense steps in their development and every time they play another team that coach asks: when is the lad going to preform this at the stadium?
That is a relevant question. Because maybe the player doesn't differ that much from the elite team when we look at his skills. But when we split the skills to 'technical skills' and 'mental skills', there's a lot to gain. First they are playing their game on the pitch, with only the parents of the performing players beside the lines. The next step is a stadium where they have to play the same game, but with thousands of raging fans at the lines screaming, shouting and singing. This is a huge step, especially when we look at the types of focus.
The focus of the player needs to be at the game, at all times. He needs to switch rapidly from broad focus (focus over the pitch, environment) to narrow focus (ball, energy regulation, own position). This switching takes place between seconds. At the pitch with the youth elite, there is almost noting else that can distract the player from his tasks or the focus to his tasks. But when he enters the stadium with thousands and thousands of enthousiastic spectators, there are a lot of things that can distract him for doing his task. Not speaking of the distractions that can have a negative influence on the focus of the young player.
So the step is normally too big for young talented players. Of course they can get used to the immense audience, but then they need time. And now we reach the problem of these days: The coaches of the elite squads simply don't have the time to let young talented players get used to the immense pressure at the stadium. That means when the problem of 'stage fright' appears, the player needs to act at a lower level first. This to get rythm in games and experience with audience watching the game. This is a natural process. But when a talented player of for example a premier league club, needs to play games on loan at a championsship club the second problem appears.
Most of the young talented players think a step back is a loss, which can not be accepted. Instead of facing the challenge and get 'game rythm', they stay at their club and end up at the bench or the second team. This young talents need to understand that one step back at that moment, can give you the opportunity to develop even more in the future. This also needs to be accompanied by the club, the coaches and the environment of the player. So when this problem occurs, the alarm bells of (psychological) coaches need to ring immediately. They need to make the player realise that when he gets used to shutting down the noise of the audience and getting 'game rythm' at a lower level, in fact is a step back. But when the challenge is faced, the step back is taken, huge steps can be taken forward.
Of course this is one of the small steps that need to be taken to reach the level of the elite squad. But the main message I want to make clear here is: Sometimes there has to be taken one step back, to reach the goal that was set at the beginning. Don't see the step back as a loss, but see it as a challenge to reach your goal. One step back can mean three steps forward in the future!