by Filipe Teles (Soccer HUB Content Specialist)
Very often I hear parents saying that “my son is amazing striker”, “my son is like a defensive wall”, and that makes me think about some mistakes that some coaches may be doing. At grassroots development ages until 11/12 the kids are like sponges absorbing everything that somebody tries to teach them. For the same reason at this ages in school, they started to learn different languages and new concepts, because their brains are 90-95% developed already.
The cognitive period of operational thoughts is very important on the development from the players. At this stage they stop think about them and start understanding the world around them, thinking more as a teammate. This is the perfect age for them to start understanding the positions/rules in the game according with Piaget Theory.
Should we limited a player of this age group to one position only in the field? In my opinion, NO, if we do we are only “closing down” the limits of the development. I personally like to have my players doing all the positions (between this ages) for them to understand the game and reality of all them in the game.
Same examples of players that they were “forced” into play in one position, and after they became better in a different.
- Gareth Bale – was a full back after he became Striker/winger.
- Thierry Henry – was a striker, after Wenger made him a winger.
- Kompany – was a Defensive midfielder, now is a Central Back.
- Toni Kronos – was Attacking midfielder and winger, now is Defensive Midfielder.
- Pirlo – was a #10, finished his carrier as #6.
Just some few examples of players that after some years and some experiences got adapted to play in a different rule in the field. We all know histories like Rui Patrício (Portugal National Team Goalkeeper) that started to play as striker, but by 11 years old the coach was “forced” to put him in the net, and now is a World Class Goalkeeper. This changes are only possible after some experiences and rotation. I can’t understand why I coach can say that certain player (at 8 or 10 years old) will be a great defender/striker. Did he tried him in different positions? The kids all develop in different ways, and time. Some players grow up early, same late, some understand faster, some slower, some can be considered teenagers by 11, some only by 14.
When I see I coach using one player in only one position, that shows me two things.
– The coach is not thinking on the Long Term Player Development, he’s not allowing the player to absorb as much information as possible about the other positions/rules in the field.
– The coach is just interested in win the game. Winning games are important, but development is way more important. Victories at this ages are “Ego Massages” to the coaches and some parents. The most important thing should be How did the players did? What did they learn on the today’s game? What do we need to work during the week?
Everybody likes to win, but the process is more satisfying than the victory. If the coach work properly the players and the processes, the results will show up naturally.