Youth Development; Mourinho, Ferguson and Guardiola at the U11’s?
Yesterday I was travelling with public transport again. While I was enjoying myself to the fullest reading a free newspaper I got from an old guy outside the train station, I noticed an article about youth development in hockey. Some great hockey coaches explained their vision about youth development within hockey and phrased that the best coaches, should train the youngest athletes. This was their statement because the most fundamental skills like ball control, passing, shooting, dribbling etc. is learnt at this age. Without these fundamental skills, young players can never be elite hockey players.
Now I transferred this to football. I agree that the fundament is made at very young age. And if these skills and techniques aren’t learnt during this period, it is very hard to do so in the future. This is also scientifically underpinned. But if the best coaches are needed to learn these young guys their skills, I don’t know. Point one: when you phrase it like this, it looks like the best coaches are going to train the young athletes. The older they get, the less qualified the coaches will be.. I know this will not be the case, but just to shine my light at their phrasing.
In my opinion, a youth academy needs a straight vision of what they want to learn their athletes. So what tasks they have (position specific and non-specific), which skills they need to possess etc. This must be made clear through the whole academy. At the youth teams the athletes will learn more technical skills, to learn to master the ball. The older they get, the more the trainings will shift from technical to tactical. This philosophy must be clear to all coaches over the whole academy.
When this philosophy is clear, the coaches can be pointed to the teams. Every trainer has a speciality. There are coaches that can work really well with younger children, and there are other coaches that can work better with adolescents or even adults. It could be that the coaches are the same in knowledge, experience and age, but the speciality lies in a different category. Also it could be that the preference of a coach lies in a particular age category.
What I want to make clear with this blog is: That there mustn’t only be a good coach at the young athletes, but the whole academy needs the best coaches. They must also be able to follow the philosophy of the club they are training for, and have the specialty or preference of the age category they will coach. There can be put a great coach on a U11 squad, but if he doesn’t know of doesn’t want to work with these youngsters, it will never work out well. Also don’t make a difference between importance in different age categories. The coach of the U11 is just as important as the coach of the U19.