Never Ending Assessments for Improving Performance
Life's never ending challenge is to use our talents and our resources to become the best we can be at whatever we choose to become.
For coaches and soccer players the greatest limitations to becoming the best soccer coach and/or player is having the:
Many say you also need luck, others that you must be so determined to succeed that you work so hard you make your own luck.
Most never have a full time career in soccer. They participate for the love of the game, to share that experience with their teammates and for the opportunity to learn life's lessons so they can use their talents to become the best at doing what they are capable of.
Challenges in Program and Player Development
Research suggests most clubs, coaches and trainers teach the game based on how they were coached, what they see others do and on previously published coaching text.
Research on how the game is taught has shown:
Myths Versus Reality in Development
Common quotes are often used in creating age group based training programs that encourage players to practice very hard to become successful:
Franz Beckenbauer, German National Team, Manager and Player observed it's the quality of developmentally age appropriate practice and not the number of repetitions or hours of practice that motivates and best improves players. Franz Beckenbauer observed:
"Practice doesn't make perfect, Perfect practice makes perfect"
Too often coaches and parents try to get players to do those things they believe before they are developmentally mature enough to learn them. When players practice too long they become bored, unfocused and create a bad habit that can last the rest of their life.
Unfocused practices create bad playing habits including:
Research shows it takes 2 to 8 months of perfect practice, on average, to create a perfect new habit, if a player has the developmental maturity and the desire to learn it. Ongoing current assessments of each player's developmental maturity identifies what each player can successfully focus on and learn at each point in time as they mature. Bibliography - "How are habits formed: Modeling habit formation in the real world"
Rote Repetition Versus Perfect Practice
In most 20th century schools languages, multiplication tables, spelling and even soccer, were taught by rote (constant repetition) until they were learned or the student became bored and failed. In England, for example, rote soccer skills training is being replaced by programs like Manchester United's "Coaching in Schools" program with an emphasis on:
Developmental Versus Chronological Age
Most schools, youth sports and other youth activities use a child's chronological age to determine a child's peer group for activities. They do not take into consideration a child's physical/skeletal, intellectual, emotional and social maturity for determining what a child is capable of learning. Studies have shown that in a randomly selected group of children in the same chronological age group for their gender:
In school a savvy teacher quickly assesses what students are capable of learning and will often have several reading groups, each reading at the level appropriate for that group's members. In sports, a savvy coach quickly assesses each player's physical/skeletal, emotional, intellectual, and social maturity to create learning peer groups, each working on learning what is appropriate for that group's members.
Developmental Maturity and Success
A research study, published in 2014, tracked when boys on elite division 1 teams reached skeletal maturity and how many by age 22 were playing in Europe's 5 top professional leagues (Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1) and/or for their Men's National Team.
The results, consistent with other studies, showed that by age 14.5 some Middle Developers and Many Late Developers had dropped out. Of the players still playing at age 14.5:
Research shows that Late Developers, who refuse to quit, focus on learning a better understanding of the game and developing better skills while their bodies mature. This focus gives them an advantage after they reach skeletal maturity allowing many of them to play professional soccer at a very high level. Bibliography - "The Biological Age of 14-year-old Boys and Success in Adult Soccer: Do Early Maturers Predominate in the Top-level Game?"
An ESPN survey found the majority (70%) of young Americans quit sports before reaching physical maturity because many clubs and/or coaches focus on early developers and not on developing players for the long term. Bibliography - "Hidden-demographics-youth-sports-espn-magazine"
Mentoring Reasonable Expectations
The challenge for parents, teachers and adult role models working with children is mentoring achievable expectations. In the 16 team invasion sports like soccer, basketball and hockey there is only one perfect instant when you can arrive on time. If you arrive too early you bring an opponent with you. If you arrive too late you miss your opportunity.
In mentoring achievement, set goals that are just out of reach at each instant in time. If you set the goal way too high and the player misses it, they fail and if they fail too often they stop trying because they learn to fear failure. If you set the goal too low and the player always achieves it, they fail to develop to their full potential.
Players achieve and learn best when their achievement goals are just beyond their comfort zone. They are motivated when they work hard and come just close enough to believe they can, with a more effort, achieve their goal. And when they do achieve you reset the goal just a little higher. It's amazing how much players achieve when they focus on goals just beyond their reach that can be achieved with focus and hard work.
All players need their own goals because each has their own strengths and limitations. Almost all infants come into this world with turned in feet (pigeon toed), leg bones that are curved and hip joints with very limited range of motion. Care must be taken to match skills taught with what each younger player is capable of doing. Forcing players to try to do what they are not yet capable of doing causes many players to quit before age 13 because they feel they can't be successful.
Pigeon toed players often have several advantages savvy coaches look for:
On-Going Assessments for Success
Players improve most when their talents and what they need to learn to play better in games are correctly identified. A simple match assessment system that rewards effort and success, correctly identifies contributions in games and that encourages never ending improvement works best.
Training should always be developmentally appropriate or the risk of injury is increased. Some lessons must be delayed until the player has the physical (skeletal and muscular), mental, emotional and/or intellectual maturity necessary to safely and successfully master the lesson.
It's what players do under pressure in games that must be observed to assess the complete player; their focus, effort, vision, decision making, game understanding, skills and habits. And also those things they do that help their opponents, which need to be corrected.
Planning for Success
Game assessments reveal what to focus on in the near term to most quickly improve teams and players, so that they feel good about how they are playing and want to improve.
"A good technical
analysis of every player
is essential for the
execution of tactics.
We must avoid having
a player who is forced
to do something they
do not command.
Training is, therefore,
to focus on and
improve the individual."
Manager, F.C. Barcelona
When it comes to
most coaches fail
to realize it takes
absolutely no talent
to make the effort.
Effort is the great
Kevin Smulin, Coach
Texas A & M Football
Edited and Published 22 February 2018