Currently speaking we know football has one measure to define the outcome of a game. Goals. The team with the most goals wins we all know this. But is it potentially threatening the development of players? What has typically happened is that because kids, parents and coaches want to win they often set there teams up like this. Big kids at the back because they can kick the ball long and fast kids up front to chase the balls over the top leading to scoring chances. Any payers in the midfield also acts like the back except they are usually small but still send the ball long when they get the chance.
Teams that play like this maybe successful at junior level but as soon as all the other kids catch up the results start to slip. Furthermore the kids have been deprived the opportunity to learn the proper skills in order to adjust how they play. You can literally almost spot these players as well once they get to the older junior age groups and seniors. A typical striker who has always been quicker than everyone else will look to play on the last man and always look to run forward regardless of the situation. Rather then potentially dropping in between the lines or coming to the ball or dropping out wide. They are one dimensional.
But what is the best way to correct this cycle? A full change of the scoring system at junior and sub junior level perhaps? Something has to change either way because at the moment this is how it is working and think about it. How many of the most successful teams in the world play like the team I mentioned above?
What I am proposing is that coaches be taught how to value other aspects of football not just the scoreboard. You cannot simply change the way you win games by the amount of pass, shots or time possession for example. It would be to hard to manage, teach and would certainly cause more problems than it solves … if it even solves any.
What I think needs to happen is a greater emphasis of the players development throughout the game itself. Rather than just going out there and saying let’s win this or I want to get a result today. Change the dialogue to okay guys/girls lets try our hardest to win today but don’t forget to try and keep the ball on the ground and pass to our teammates to go forward. By adding the last part which is just a reminder of what they may have been working on throughout the week it reminds the kids of how the coach wants the game to be played. No-one is going to remember that your son won his 12 div 1 league. So, get over yourself. At that age it is not just about winning but its making sure they are still enjoying the game and are developing their skills to have a successful career in senior football.
So what I think needs to happen is that there is a greater emphasis placed on what the coach is trying to develop in the players. This can also be achieved through individual and position based player tasks. So, for me at 12 and below the players are rotating position every week. So telling them all at once I want you to do this, I want you to do this, and so 12 times a week for 20+ weeks is not the way to go. You will get bored, the kids will get sick of it and then you have more problems. So what I do is simply say that the wingers for example, there goal is to take on players 5 times in a match and get 5 crosses into the box. The striker might be to get 10 shots at goal and 5 passes. Something like that. This then creates an emphasis on what you want those players to do in those positions. You do not really want your defender worrying about scoring, or your attacker about how many tackles they can make. As a reward you can give the kids a treat or have an internal points system whereby players accumulate points and at the end of the season they get a prize or trophy of some kind. It might be a little hard to keep track of but it is 100% worth it.