To follow on from the last post around Talent ID and how we often overemphasise its importance, we will discuss here the next stage of the pathway – Talent Development. This describes what happens once a young player is in your system and how you can give them the best possible chance of reaching their potential.
First of all, consider why these young people have joined your club or group and think about what your organisation is there for. Have you selected them to try to win a competition? Have they self-selected to be there? What type of experiences do you want them to have within your club?
These are all important questions which will shape how their journey unfolds. The only real rationale for a junior sports club existing is to provide opportunity for youngsters to try the sport and to enjoy playing and competing. This means your primary job is to make training and competing fun and enjoyable, so more players join and stay with the club.
In terms of talent development, the benefit of having a large number of players at the club is that any one of them could become a great player. Although it might not seem this way, the best player at Under 10’s could be at their peak already and not become as good as you thought they would. And vice versa, the kid who you think has no chance could become a superstar. The fact is we simply don’t know how young people will develop (or even if they will still want to play the sport in future), so the development system needs to be equally weighted for all.
As mentioned in the previous post, selection and non-selection for teams can make a huge impact on the confidence and self-esteem of a young person. As a coach or a manager, you must ensure that you are providing feedback, regardless of if you have been involved in selections or not. Those not selected for representative honours or put into the lower teams within a club must be told that they will have opportunities in future, and that this selection is simply a snapshot of where they are now. Reassure them that everyone develops at different rates and that there is no reason why they can’t join the higher groups in future. This would also be a good time to reinforce the ethos of working hard and enjoying themselves, as these are both crucial in development. Also, those selected for higher honours should receive feedback. This isn’t about bringing them down, but just making sure that they understand that the people currently not quite as good as them will be working hard to surpass them now. Those selected will generally be early developers and should be encouraged to focus developing on their skillsets in technical and tactical aspects rather than solely using their physicality.
Giving appropriate feedback is one of the most important things you can do as a junior coach to keep participation levels high, and ultimately drive playing standards higher as the children get older.
Another key aspect of the talent development pathway is the importance of providing appropriate challenges for all. This is where grading of teams and having representative teams can be used constructively, as players will be competing with those at a similar level most of the time. However, as a coach you can add to that in creative ways to enhance the pathway and allow young players to experience times of easier success combined with times of more challenge. For example, you could arrange to train with an older age-group one week and a younger age-group the next. Working with older kids will challenge the physically more mature players to find different strategies rather than just physical attributes, as they will no longer be the biggest and strongest in the group. Conversely, training with a young age-group will give your later maturing players more confidence when they experience success.
These are just some examples of how it can be done. There are many methods, but the principles of alternating periods of challenge with periods of success and providing feedback every step of the way remains the same if you want to help your players reach their potential.
Remember that putting more time and energy into thinking about how you will run talent development systems as a club, rather than trying to identify who you think may be a good player in future, will put you on the right path to success in the long-term.
Posted By: Rob Fowkes
Posted: 14 May 2018