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Comment: The pitfalls of junior football coaching

All Things Relevant
Picture the scene. Out in the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the city sits a football training ground.  The best playing surface money can purchase - woodlands all around, exclusive with its fences and security guards making sure that only the invited take part.  The invited, with their children dressed all in blue kit, everyone looking pristine budding to be the next Messi, running around on the training ground, working on their football game.  The coach giving out instructions. Idyllic, all so beautiful. I watch, listen and observe.
In a break in training I take the opportunity to exchange a few points of reference with one of the coaches.  I don’t’ know who this man is but from what I can observe this man is observing the coach that’s working with the children and assessing his work.  The young lads are in effect taking part in helping the coach to gain his coaching badges, fair enough. I watch and observe.
In exchanging views with this coach that is observing the other coach at work I listen to his answers to my points of reference.  My points of reference centred on what I was seeing, the young players were very one footed, all forward moving, the ball kept on their favourite foot and forward moving.  I note the date - March 27th 2011.
My observations - It doesn’t matter what the coach was working on because when the young players moved with the ball they moved the ball forward of their position and were one footed so to speak. The missing point being the reality that the one footedness of the players creates its own consequences on the field of play, during any proper game of football. 

The reality is that the training session and the effects of the training sessions that these children had received in the past and even in the present actually resulted in the young players having the ability to play the ball with the one good foot so to speak and this reality has its consequences, namely, it was very clear to me that the children here had shown abilities that catered for the needs of the second ball game reality but not to the first ball game and its reality.

It didn’t matter what the training session was meant to achieve because the one footedness of the young players dominated everything and that actuality above all else creates its own reality in the real game of football where the opponents live and get in the way of playing objectives.
The conclusions to what I observed on the training ground are in fact interesting to say the least.  The support for the one footedness was rather obvious especially when the arguments based on the support for the one footedness of the player are bolstered by such points of view as look at players like Messi, ‘Look at Messi he is all left footed’.

By pointing out Messi as the base for their arguments this made things very revealing to me.  For one thing, the one footedness of the young players playing their football in front of these coaches was not a problem. However on taking a closer look at the one footedness reality in the face of the latter observation about Messi I came to some relevant conclusions. I realised that Messi at age 11 was nothing like what I was seeing here on this training ground.

At age eleven Messi had a growth hormone deficiency, the fact that he was underdeveloped had given him other attributes.  Messi was light on his feet and being small had to develop fast feet to get out of the way of the bigger boys.  His father was the manager of the team Messi played for up to the age of eleven and so he was free to develop his style of play based on his physical attributes.

In comparison to Messi the young eleven year old here in front of me that I observed on this training ground are different physically speaking and many in my eyes were already built to a heavy set proportion physically speaking at age 11.
The Playing Attributes - Add The Two Together
In glorifying the one footedness capability lies a huge mistake. The coaches here didn’t take into account issues involving a lack of two footedness and so when it comes to the development of the young player - both the diet and the training that count for everything are flawed.

Understanding dietary problems is a serious issue. It is not the one footedness of the player that is the problem; it is the lack of understanding its consequences on the physical development of the young player, through a lack of balanced development that is the problem. If the young player up to the age of 11-12 applies the use of the one good foot to the ball and this strong foot dominates everything then no matter what the player does the latter reality does develop an imbalance in his physical being. 

The good foot to the ball will become stronger and the other foot will not match up in terms of strength - long term - hence the imbalance that has its effect on the game of football. The forward moving training environment does not address the issues of a lack of physical balance, especially if the training domain at an early age actually enforces the use of the one good foot to the ball. The one footedness training concepts and the development of a strong physical heavy set being sets its own course and that course does not achieve the same objectives as is seen in players like Messi that had in fact a completely different development base up to the age of 11 - setting his future.
The Answer
Outside of the dietary considerations and the controlled living lifestyles the training of the young players should involve a different approach to their physical development for football certainly up to the age of 11-12.

The balanced development of the player should include the use of two footed training solutions.  The training environment as such should be with the ball and light in terms of the physical movements and therefore fast feet development.  At its core should be the 'Mastery Of The Ball'.

In a few weeks time we have an opportunity to present the game with a DVD that shows a two footedness training environment. My advice to everyone is this: The balanced development of the player in both physical and technical terms is crucial to their ability to play football. Ignore the issues of a lack of balance both in terms of the physical being (dietary considerations) and the technical development of the player at your cost. It is never too late.

The issues of a lack of physical balance can be sorted out with the right training methods, even late in any football player’s career.  The ability to play with the right or left foot at will is a different matter.  The latter requires training from an early age.

The support for the development of the young player based on the second ball game solutions is not the way forward. I urge everyone to consider the use of lateral development two footedness solutions to all the young players up to the age of 12.

In addition I would like to congratulate the Scottish Football Association for announcing that from now on that children in Scotland will play four a sides up to the age of 11-12 and seven a sides on a half field up to the age of 13 and only full games of football after the age of 13.

The move by the Scottish Football Association to play four v four up to the age of 11 is certainly the right way forward for all young children especially if this move is backed by training solutions that cater to the development of the players skill repertoire and two footedness playing capability at the very least on a balanced physical and wherever possible depending on the ability of the individual player also on a technical level.

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