“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it”
― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
When we test a players skill level under conditions that do not reflect the performance environment, the player will alter his behaviour and base his response on the test environment.
There are many counter-productive ideologies in youth sport. Just like our education system where we confuse intelligence with academic ability we confuse performance with talent. We also confuse technique with game intelligence. Club X decides in all its wisdom to hold trials for their academy team. The 8 year olds (yes! I have even observed younger) are put through their paces , a variety of technique and passing drills where a multitude of cones are neatly placed to dictate direction, movement and decision making.
Still to this day I have yet to see anyone tackled by a cone!
In his book “Se På Spelet” Andreas Alm identifies a problem with much of today’s technique and passing drills children as young as 6 years of age are exposed too. It develops ball watchers.
“We are ball watchers, because we have been fostered this way”
The more traditional technique and passing drills rarely encourage use of the ball using perceptual information thus “fostering a generation of players that through thousands of hours of repetition learn to madly and intensely stare at the ball.” This sentiment echoes back to my previous blog where I state- The only thing you need is the players in an empty space with a ball. We should add nothing to it unless it helps.
Repetitive technique and passing drills have created young players with a very limited and blinkered perceptual understanding of the game. They become the player that stares at the ball as it is been passed to them. They follow the ball with their eyes while others are in possession. They may well be comfortable and friendly with the ball but they are already strangers to the game.
Create learning environments that encourage thinking and decision making. This will provide a strong foundation for each player’s development.
By blurring the lines between training and the game, the coach creates an environment that replicates the real game, one that couples perception and action. Within this environment the players should be encouraged to experience, discover and explore all learning opportunities. The session takes on a more spontaneous form, like the old street football games. Once the players understand that it is a safe to fail environment they take control of their own learning. The experience is relevant to the real game.
So what about our 8 year olds on trial for Club X Academy team? Those that were best at learning the technique and passing drills were probably accepted to the academy.
“Tradition is hard to break and to stand up against”– Nicko Egnell- Coach at Swedish Premier League club Åtvidaberg