Talent can hardly be predicted at an early age

Fortunately in the Netherlands, players up till 12 years old can fully train again under supervision. Most clubs are now focussing on their team rosters for next season. But are the best young players, who end up in select teams, also the best in the long term? This is applicable on both amateur and professional level. 

The “high performers”, in other words the players who are good now are usually picked-out, and that is not that difficult. Identifying the “high potentials” is much more difficult, if not almost impossible”. Out of fear of missing the next Memphis Depay, or using the argument that young players will get more quality trainings, children still switch to professional academies at a very young age. They are taken out of their social environment and at what chance of success? 

talent identification

The question we should be asking ourselfs is “are we picking the right players at a young age?”. Like seeds if you nurture them, seeds will grow. But did we pick the best seeds? Aloys Wijnker, at this moment Academy Director at Vitesse Arnhem did some research on how may players in the U15, U16 and U17 joined the club at U8 or U9. The conclusion was almost none. This of course is a conclusion at a professional level, but how do you deal with this at amateur level? For example a player with potential is part of the third U9 team and a player who is good now is part of the best U9 team. How does their development look in general?

In this case the player with potential is part of a “lower” team and very likely has a volunteer coach. Over the years he has fewer and less quality training sessions resulting in a mediocre individual development. The player who is good now has a licensed coach, gets more quality training sessions, resulting in a good individual development. The player with potential has no chance to catch up with the good player. What would happen if the player with potential was given an equal chance? The same licensed coach and the same number of quality training sessions? 

What is who is needed to properly organize talent development across the whole club? Instead of thinking in problems, what solutions are there?

More to follow…

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Achieving Objectives

objectives impact4soccer method club development

Whether it concerns personal/ individual objectives, or objectives in a larger perspective (club, department, etc), 80 to 90% are mostly not achieved. Not because the goals aren’t feasible, but due to a lack of the four P’s; People, Process, Product, Performance. You can have as many wishes as you want, but are you the right person with the right competencies to reach those goals? 

If the first P (People) is not good, it is not surprising that certain (personal) objectives are not achieved. The first P is often ignored at every level. How often do you read that clubs are repeatedly experiencing financial problems because people are mainly interested in themselves or work with people who later turn out not to be the right people? Ultimately the right competencies determine to what extent goals are achieved, not how much you like someone or how well you know someone. 

One of the resources that often leads to achieving goals is budget. This is logical because you cannot spend more than you have. For example; I recently heard someone say “We are actually not satisfied with him, but he has the right certification and he costs us nothing”? Not surprising that you or your organisation never reaches the second P (Process

objectives impact4soccer method

Also on a personal level, a lack of sufficient budget/ resources may initially seem like a major obstacle to achieving your goals. Instead of thinking what is not possible, try to investigate and write down what is possible or what can be done in another way. Taking steps in your development is a process and ultimately a form of achievement. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, take the first step. 

Conditions

You don’t set goals for nothing, because you want to be somewhere else than you are right now, right? Change is therefore necesarry. From a club or department point of view this means that you will have to take a good look at the competencies and mindset of the people in your organisation. You cannot develop a modern and innovative organisation if you opt for people with a static mindset. This also applies to the achievement of personal objectives. If you are not willing to look at yourself and change yourself, you might as well throw those objectives directly in the trash. 

objectives change impact4soccer method

Preconditions are also the people around you, the composition of a team or coaching staff. Healthcare is typically such in industry in which self-reflection is a continuous process. Of course the impact is greater if mistakes are made, but the fact is that people in healthcare excell more in self-reflection than in soccer. 

People around you can have more impact on your personal development and personal goals than for example, attending a course. It is more likely that you will achieve your personal objectives with people who look at you from a (constructive) critical point of view than people who say yes to everything you say or ask. Yet people often opt for docile people. People continu to do the same, but expect other results? 

Objectives are often not specific enough

Many objectives are not achieved because they are not specific enough and do not contain sub-objectives or deadlines. If you cannot see the path properly and not feel progress, why should you keep putting energy into it? Everyone needs to feel an achievement to stay motivated. 

Guide youth players, but let them chose their own direction

It is already difficult for adults to set specific goals and make good planning, let alone for children whose prefrontal cortex (including planning) is still developing. The outcome is that adults often (unknowingly) sit on the director’s chair and the needs of the child fade into the background. Are the basic conditions such as FUN and self-confidence still present? Every child is unique and should be the director of his/her own development. Parents, coaches, teachers etc should play a supporting role in this, nothing more. If we prepare everything and/or give too many compliments about talent present, the learning ability is no longer addressed and no foundation fo optimum player development. In that situation players with a static mindset will be created who no will never be able to achieve their goals.  

Not only write down, but also do it!

Whether it concerns personal objectives or within a larger context, it often only looks good on paper. A classic example is the well known objective you can read in a player development plan of many clubs, “Our main focus lies with individual player development”. If you take a good look at training sessions than that is not the case at all. 

Example 1:

A U17 player shows annoying behaviour at training sessions. He is barely challenged and this is hs way of expressing that. The first U19 team has countless injuries and the second U19 team suffers from shortages, they can play but not pass on players. The club has added an additional rule stating that it is no longer allowed to supplement team with players from other age groups. As a result 11 players of the second U19 team sit at home because their game was cancelled and the U17 player is thinking about leaving the clubs because he has no FUN and is not challenged. 

Example 2:

A U15 player is ordered to join a U17 team in an away game, because the coach wants at least 3 substitutes. Sounds good at first. The distance to the game (one direction) is 60 miles. The U15 player is a starting player in his U15 team where he is able to play 70 minutes. The U17 coach puts him in with just 4 minutes playing time left. 

Back at the club the U15 player tells the Director of Coaching that he only played 4 minutes. The answer the player gets is “Playing for another select team, even if it is just for 4 minutes, is mandatory in our club if you want to play select soccer. If you don’t do that you are not allowed to play for your own team”.  

Conclusion

Achieving goals requires changes in yourself and possibly the preconditions of your environment. If you are not in the right environment you will not reach your objectives. Competencies (long term) are more important than a certificate (short term). Experience is only a matter of time. You have to get out of your comfortzone and take action following a decent step by step plan. 

Zelf reflection is a continuous process

Are you who you say you are? Do you do what you say you do? 

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