While the English Premier League continues to attract the best players from all over the world, concerns have been raised over the past few years that the English youth system has perhaps been de-prioritised in order to concentrate on securing the fully-developed talent. As a result the English game has had something of an identity crisis which has taken its toll on the senior international side in recent years.
From the local youth club all the way up to the coaching staff at the top-flight clubs, youth coaches have a major part to play in moulding and shaping youngsters’ potential for a future at the top of the game, as countries like Germany and Belgium have recently demonstrated with their own focus on youth in the big leagues.
From an early age, budding players need that encouragement from their coach, and it’s initiatives like The Beautiful Game which demonstrate not only the need for focus on their footballing development, but an all-round approach to their individual needs and goals. Importance is also placed on players’ parents to be more involved in their children’s development by helping them train and learning a deep appreciation for competition and sportsmanship. Coaches too should do their best to keep parents involved in the process of mentoring and communicating with each player concerned. The triangle of communication between parent, coach and player will be sure to help the player grow in talent and confidence while also keeping their feet on the ground.
Of course, as players grow older the real world begins to creep in a little more; according to a FA employee’s Youth Development blog the retention rate of players begins to drop as adolescence progresses. While the usual heady mix of exams and girls can be somewhat responsible, there are many factors which cause promising players to lose interest in the game – some which can easily be prevented by a coach’s personal investment in their team. Issues such as bullying for example can be eradicated by a proactive approach, while issues of a youngster’s confidence dropping through lack of team selection or a bad run of form are all part and parcel of the game, and something which a coach should be able to combat by raising team morale.
A successful Premier League team employs a mix of incoming talent and youth players who have risen through the Academy ranks; one need only look at the likes of Ryan Giggs who has spent an entire career associated with Manchester United; he retired from playing just a couple of weeks ago aged 40 with the equivalent of a major trophy for every 28 games he played! Youth players also formed the backbone of a Leeds United side which reached the semi-finals of both the UEFA Cup and Champions League within a couple of years at the turn of the millennium, while Arsenal’s extremely capable Academy has produced a myriad of talent, with almost 70 graduates who have represented their country at full international level since the Second World War.
Nobody could be more proud of these players than the coaches who oversaw their development, and for the most part before club association, these deeds go unrecognised by the rest of the footballing community. But with the likes of the Motors Most Deserving Award looking to reward the part played by coaches, it may not be long before we see an even more intensive approach taken to shaping young talent from its earliest possible opportunity.