Youth Soccer, How Do We Interpret It? How Do We Know They Are Developing?

One of the biggest challenges for parents and coaches it trying to see the game from a child perspective and understanding how sports are different from business and technology.

To start with, sports are always influenced by and have big impacts on business’s, politics, and more recently technology, but this is at the senior level largely. Youth sports is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and that has had its effects on the youth sport.

To take it deeper in to the day to day world of youth sports, we look at how the adults view the world. The world is now largely technological and continues to advance through algorithms and systems.

Taken from a Jonathan Wilson article from the Guardian… Justin Smith, author of Irrationality, discusses the baleful effects of the modern urge to quantify everything. Algorithms and systems, he notes, make life safer and more efficient but there is a cost. Once somebody becomes a set of data, they become a commodity. “This financialization is complete…”

It’s understandable how parents and coaches can then struggle to remove themselves from this modern world and work place model and watching their kids playing sports. We see winning as the simplest form of an algorithm of a player must be good if their team wins, or even a good team. However, we forget to look at the human, and the individual. Or, when we do look at the individual, we try to understand their performance by statistics.

“The tech companies’ transformation of individuals into data sets,” Smith says, “has effectively moneyballed the entirety of human social reality.” That is a trend that extends beyond managers, to scouts, agents, journalists and fans, many of whose interactions with football will have been conditioned by Football Manager or FIFA, in which players are literally bundles of statistics.

When looking at the individual it’s important to break it down as follows when concerned with player development –

  • Technical – is the player comfortable on the ball, and willing to compete in a 1v1 situation. Dribbling has become a lost art.
  • Sociological – does the player interact well with other players, coaches, and show respect to referees.
  • Psychological – is the player open and unafraid of making mistakes, but willing to try new skills on the field.

All these point towards a developing player in the correct environment, irrelevant of scorelines and statistics. Youth players need the human approach to understanding the pathway they are on.

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