Long Term Player Development
West Elk Soccer Association's philosophy is to develop players over time and not concentrate on one season, wins and losses. The model we work with is long term player development, which is being applied all over the world. We want to give our children the best opportunity to learn skills and develop as people so that when they are adults they are the best they can be.
Historically soccer has developed its players, concentrating on technical and tactical aspects of the game. Basic physical literacy skills have always been encouraged in football and they make up the physical corner. We believe that if we want to develop the whole player, the coach must also encourage and actively work on development in the social and psychological corners. The emphasis is on:
- The players making decisions within the session and feeling it is “OK” to make mistakes and try new things – Encouraging them to be creative is sometimes “messy” …that’s also “OK”.
- Giving the players ownership of the sessions and opportunities to self correct, challenge themselves and reflect.
- Guidance and encouragement is given as and when needed throughout the whole process and question and answer is a great way to check understanding from the players and help them to progress in the long term.
- Development of skills in all four corners (Technical, Physical, Social and Psychological). Each session can easily work across all four corners and there will always be overlap, even if the main focus is in just the technical corner for example, we can still build into our sessions opportunities for the players to work across all four corners.
There are a number of factors that affect player across all four corners and these will change as the player grows and develops.
- Chronological age within the group
- Physical growth/size
- Maturity across the four corners
These differences between players pose many challenges for the coach and the way a players performs, copes or develops across each corner will vary depending on the task/challenges set within the session.
Why do we split by ability?
We split by ability so that the players can play and practice at a comfortable level where they will grow as players. Being in an environment where players can learn and practice at their own pace is hugely important for their development as soccer players and people. We are able run sessions that cater to the level/age of our players. We can also arrange games against the proper level of competition so our players can enjoy playing and learn at the same time.
Why not even teams?
Having even teams would make the skill level in the group have a much greater range than if we have teams that are matched by ability. This can make coaching a session extremely difficult. The difference in ability does not completely disappear, however having players with similar skills and abilities allows the coach to cater the sessions for those players so that they can improve and learn at their own pace.
The stigma associated with being on the lower level team
Unfortunately there can sometimes be a stigma and a feeling of not being good enough associated with splitting groups by ability. It is the coaches and parents job to explain and educate the players of why the split can help players. Advantages include practices that are catered to help the player improve at their own pace, more touches of the ball thus leading to improved skills, more playing time in games, increased support from the coach etc. This should be the focus, especially in youth soccer, rather than focusing on what level a player is playing at.
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