Coaching, Player Development

What is Player Development?

What is player development? Parents are asking…
Parents are asking because they care about their child(ren) and we have some thoughts to share for the parent that is wondering the exact same thing!

Player Development. It is a constant focus for anyone involved in youth Soccer. The USA failed to qualify for Russia 2018 and many believe that long term success comes from player development. Clubs / teams / coaches tell you about their player development approach, philosophy, and even their alumni as evidence of success.

Do a web search of ‘player development’ and see what you get. Ask your club / coach and see what you get. Ask me, Lee, and see what you get.

There are a lot of results and answers about the ‘player’. Touches on the ball. Fun and challenging environments. Small-sided games. Playing time. Developing a passion and desire to play, to succeed. Players making the ‘A’ team. Playing up an age, playing at high school, playing at college, and playing in Academy programs like the USSF DA. U.S. Soccer has a player development initiative to encourage as best practices and although not currently mandated, U.S. Soccer believes members should adopt these principles to align with U.S. Soccers values and objectives for player development.

Do you have an idea as to what player development is? Also, what matters to you and your player?
This is such an important aspect of player development to answer because you can then measure the success your child is having. Many will tell you what they think is best for your player, but few, if any, will ask you what you want or what your player wants. Also, who is the coach to say what is best for your player? Are they an expert?

The reason for the questions is that we are now wrapping up the fall season and parents are reflecting on their child’s experience. Why not reflect whilst it is fresh in your mind! If you have an idea of what player development is, and what is appropriate for your player then you could already be evaluating and doing so throughout the whole season. If not, now is the time to ask your coach or club (or search the website, usually its on the homepage as a big statement) and see if your player is on the player development pathway.

A few things to look at:
Practice. Is practice inclusive? Does coach use small-sided games to challenge players or is a scrimmage at the end a ‘reward’. Does practice have lines, laps, and ‘fitness’? Are the players learning from an age appropriate curriculum and do you know what the practice focus is? Even better, does the club / coach have one? US Youth Soccer wrote an article here with regards to WHY US Soccer has the player development initiative and why it is valuable for the player. Does your coach believe the same pathway is appropriate?

Money. How much do you pay for this experience? How much do others pay and what is their experience? Is it worth it / comparable? What are you paying for and is it necessary for your player?

Feedback. How is your kid doing? Do you think they are improving? If you have feedback or an idea, then you’ll know if this is the right place for your player in your understanding of player development.

Playing time. What is the weekend game like? The prep divisions have trophies and that makes a huge difference to coaching mentality – of course winning is important, but in no search does winning = player development. A large part of player development is actually playing and a good amount of playing time, in varying positions, and in varying situations will help players become comfortable and confident on the ball and around the ball. Playing time also helps players put practice into action and to learn from mistakes they are definitely going to make.
Does your team use guest players to win? Meaning that perhaps your kid sits on the bench more as the ‘A’ team players get on the field to win the game? Are there guest players even when you have 11-12 players already for a 9v9 game?
In the recreational program we have a minimum of 50% playing time to address the importance of playing the game! Prep is different with no ruling on playing time, but it doesn’t mean you cannot expect a minimum.

Mistakes. How are mistakes dealt with? Is it ‘bad’ for your kid to make a mistake, in the coaches eyes and in yours? A misplaced pass or dribbling into the defender is a mistake, but it is a moment to learn from and to improve. Learning from these moments encourages players to do it better next time – player development. Is your player encouraged to make more mistakes and coached in those moments?

Motivation. We believe a large part of player development also comes from within. Does your player want to play more? Are they encouraged to play more? With teams having practice once, maybe twice per week, is that enough? The team they play on can have a huge affect on how they approach Soccer. If they love it and have a great experience they are more likely to play at school, play at home, take a soccer ball with them everywhere, and even get to watching the hours and hours of soccer available on TV and online. If a player has exposure to the tools, and the motivation to play soccer, they can take those qualities to any other environment and turn it into a player development moment, without even realizing!

Here at SFYS, we provide the organized competition for your player to experience the game (and we work on aspects such as balanced bracketing), but it is all about the experience they have with their team and coach. The varied player development philosophies out there will always focus on your player and we want you to keep the focus that way. Ultimately, we want your player to play the best game in the world and for that to happen, we want to empower you with more ideas for what player development looks like for your child and what to ask your coach / team to make sure your player is in the best place to develop.

Any time, if you have questions:

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