Rotate positions, give equal playing time, and praise.

As part of the overhaul of English soccer player development, the English Football Association recently introduced new youth coaching modules.

I’m quoting below from an article in the highly respected Independent newspaper and the last sentence really struck me as key.

There is probably only one coach that I have observed over the years here in the Bay Area who truly takes this modern, positive approach to youth player development to heart and that is Matt Tudor (@matthewtudor).

He immediately came to mind when I read the below bolded sentence.

Changing the culture of a nation’s grassroots football coaches is a slow process when decades of bad habits need correcting.

We were well into the 21st century before the Football Association realized the decline of street and schools football meant young players were learning the game in structured leagues “coached” by parents.

While well-meaning, these volunteers usually lacked training in both educational methods and football techniques; they were often also more interested in winning matches than long-term player development.

The consequences can be seen from the parks, where wannabe Mourinhos are still barking orders to nine-year-olds, to the Premier League, where barely a third of players are native.

The old win-at-all-costs style is out, in its place a child-centered philosophy that encourages coaches to let their players learn through guided discovery rather than instruction. There is now an emphasis on rotating positions, providing equal playing time, and praise rather than criticism.

Those three principles in that last sentence are absolutely fundamental for true holistic young player development in my view.

If you truly don’t play to win (compete, yes, but not win) then you will, for example, give your youngsters the opportunity to learn the game in different positions even if you weaken your team by doing so.

A nine, ten, eleven year old is simply too young to specialize in only one position.

You will also give your youngsters equal playing time so they all feel included and get a chance to develop as players. You can’t develop if you’re sitting on the bench mostly!

Unfortunately, despite lots of talk about these principles out there, you have to be a strong-minded coach to stick to these principles.

Thank you for all you do with the youngsters, Matt!

Author: James

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

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