How do we work with young talents?

Young talent: Wayne Rooney
Young talent: Wayne Rooney

From time to time, among the spectacular soccer topics, both soccer coaches and other specialists involved in the football phenomenon, as well as in the specialized media, considered important to discuss the subject about young talents or, more rarely, the so-called “geniuses”.

The most debated topics are also related to the transfer of players who haven’t reached 20 or 22 years of age at big teams, precisely because they are considered out of the ordinary or endowed.

It is sometimes spoken about players who have been considered of great perspective for years who have been selected for national teams at their ages, but haven’t yet confirmed and ended anonymously, sometimes even playing for teams in the lower divisions.

While others, on the contrary, were discovered from early and then had a shiny soccer career.

But in these really exciting approaches for soccer professionals and commentators, it is rarely discussed how many sacrifices they made and how much work they have undertaken, no one speaks of these over 10 years of training, competitions and competitions that the brilliant junior had to cross.

But, what happened in these years?

Many soccer trainers and coaches, from today and tomorrow, may be going to notice, discover or select such a junior. How will he work with him? What should he know to lead him to become a high-performance soccer player? What should he know to avoid losing those talents in anonymity or even giving up performance sports?

I will first say that great talents can be recognized by technical and tactical skills and this since small ages. That is why we have to focus mainly on these factors of training, correlating them with physical training and especially psychological training.

How do we recognize the most talented little players? We will make a short profile, and then we will focus mainly on the technical-tactical training findings, where we will discover, without claiming that we have exhausted all their capabilities if they have:

  • a very good ball control or “plug” to the ball, regardless of the technical process used;
  • a physical constitution for performance sports;
  • a perfect or very good health condition without a chronic clinical history (for goalkeepers waistline is being decisive);
  • an effective off-field move, with or without a ball and placement for goalkeepers;
  • an good orientation in space, an excellent perception and representation of the movements, but also of teammates or opponents;
  • rhythm, coordination, flexibility, ease, logic, intelligence and efficiency in all body movements, with or without a ball;
  • the speed of reception of the stimuli of the situation, decision and execution of the general and specific acts of football;
  • if it displays a rich register of general and football-specific driving skills that are right and timely used;
  • good communication, expressiveness, creativity and rapid adaptation to new situations and people.

Each of these “geniuses” are young people who need to be given extra attention in preparation. The training will have a better outline, individualization, from the first contacts.

But although each of those concerned will be treated as a particular case, we can highlight some common preoccupations with the training of great talents, focusing on technical and tactical training, with punctual references to physical training but especially to psychological training.

A first problem arises from the fact that, being highly technically-tactical coordinated, these kids will be tempted to practice less, especially as they find that, compared to the other kids in the group, they master quickly the technical procedures and learn very quickly what the coach apply in training.

From here, they can easily reach a state of self-esteem and consequently they will not train seriously, and their potential will only be exploited to a small extent.

Describing from a psychological perspective the situation of talented children or geniuses in sport, as well as in any activity that involves talent, we must say that being superior, especially technically, they can propel their self-image over the age their chronology and the image of the other teammates.

This will inevitably create a psychological gap between team members and that talentented player, which can induce great communication and relationship problems, which will also arise in connection with the coach.

Another gap will be created in one’s own psychic system, between different levels (ex.: between the intelligence manifested in the technical-tactical plan and the affective, the will, the relationship, etc.) and the technical coordination being much superior, will become an asset or a mark on which the person will rely on his evolution, but neglects the other mentioned stages.

The lack of correlation and the other aspects of his personality will outline (in time), a person and an athlete who will feel incomprehensible, which will self-isolate or will be isolated, marginalized by the group, exaggerated and inappropriate behaviors in team and everyday life, thus blocking his career and evolution.

Practically, relying solely on his talent or technique in the game, he will be revealed and insecure, unstable and confused in many other situations where he needs other arguments besides a shining technique.

A delicate problem arises when such talents are discovered and selected in low-performance clubs. Here they will compare with others who, being mediums, as value and performance – will be affected and negatively influenced, either clinging to or creating a false “star” status at 10-12 years.

Therefore, it is opportune, but hardly accepted by the coaches who have discovered them, to orientate these real talents to other clubs of tradition and with high level of performance.

It is also possible to appeal to the same club promotion in a senior age group, but also in this situation, the athlete must be watched and carefully formed, because here, by differences in age and experience, adverse psychological side effects may occur.

A simple mention should be made here on the role of family and school in these cases as factors of education and formation of attitudes and character, factors with which the coach must have a good and permanent relationship of collaboration.

Considering that these context “drawbacks” have been eliminated or adjusted, we are in the situation where the coach has a well-organized, more homogeneous group with a high level of performance for as many of the team members as they work with, including there is also a genius player. How will he work with him?

The coach must be convinced that his genius player must not be isolated but integrated in the group, that he must work with him as well as with others, but with some additional recommendations (focused on technical-tactical training), which I present what follows:

  • If the workload is relatively similar, the coach proposing the same working time for a particular exercise will further specify the intensity of the exercises (with more repetitions in the same unit of time) or, in particular, the complexity and restrictions imposed by the coach in executions.
  • For additional training, the subject will be able to continue to work more after some lessons, or will be provided with separate, individual training sessions or with other colleagues who require or recommend a greater amount of exercise. Another way to pay close attention to side effects is to supplement the training volume or to participate in some of the training sessions of junior groups or even seniors.
  • Keeping in touch with the national teams staff (corresponding to their age) will be maintained, where the respective subjects can prepare themselves in the company of valuable players, but with a level of training superior to those at the club. Here they will be able to better understand their national and international level, thus being stimulated towards performance, gradual and correct, for a sporting career, according to their talent.
  • The coaches will design special training and gaming models that are subordinated to a particular physical, technical, tactical and psychological profile created specifically for the subject in which the model’s requirements are superior and permanently evolving in volume and quality (greater technical and tactical procedures and a level of expression at superior parameters).
  • The “Genius” will be assigned higher responsibilities during games and training, recommending him to become a leader or team captain, a status that is formed many years and progressively – it implies many qualities and abilities in apart from a technique out of the ordinary.

Finally, I emphasize that these are just the most obvious of the psychological and technical tactical aspects that we can propose to use in training so that many of the talented children who come to soccer can become world-class professional soccer players and may reduce the chances of a missed sports career.


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