Justin is a UEFA B qualified football coach working with Chelsea FC, In this article he explains his approach to Player Development.
As a grass roots coach, having coached at many levels, and having held a few Development roles at local clubs I feel very passionate about player development!! As coaches we should be doing our utmost to help players reach their full potential.
Personally I think we need to change our systems and mentality toward development, and we need to develop ourselves as coaches. We should all regularly try and attend refreshers courses, swap ideas and training sessions with our peers, and even look for other coaches to be our mentors!
I have been involved in a research project, (which I am trying to roll out on a big scale (if you would like to be involved and would like more details please feel free to email me)) which has given me a great insight into how I believe we can help improve our players from a young age. Currently as you know, they start at 7-a-side at U7 and then move straight up to 11-a-side at U12. It's a big change from when I first started playing - I was 6 years old playing 11-a-side on a full size pitch with a full size ball, the FA saw the need for change and introduced 7-a-side, which is much better for player development - BUT I know we can still improve on this!!
What I would like to see is the following introduced:
U7-U9 playing 4v4
U10-U12 playing 7v7
U13-U15 playing 9v9
U16 upwards 11v11
Surely we should introduce 4v4 before going 7v7?? You divide a 7-a-side pitch in 2 and have two 4v4 running simultaneously side by side, after all U7s are meant to be non competitive.
At the younger ages this will mean more touches of the ball, more decision making opportunities, etc,etc - this can only be beneficial for everyone involved, we will start to produce players who are comfortable in possession, comfortable under pressure, etc.
Why is it that the girls go from playing 7v7 to 9v9 to 11v11, but we don't do this with the boys? I hear coaches saying it's a waste if time, but I beg to differ!!
When the boys first make the transition from 7v7 to 11v11 it can be very daunting - suddenly they are on a huge pitch and some players hardly touch the ball during the space of the game! Moving from 7v7 to 9v9 on 3 quarter size pitches with 3 quarter size goal is much more of a natural progression (it's still like the senior game with off sides etc).
All we need to do is look at our national team to realise that something needs to change, our European neighbours are all progressing so much faster than us!!
Would like to hear your comments or views on this subject??