The Talent Identification and Team Selection process is not defined by creating winning teams or grouping players together that have chemistry and size to power their way though games on a weekend. By selecting teams purely in reference to a playing bracket or their ability to win a certain level of league or cup, we are getting pulled into the ‘results trap’. This is where we use a short-term outcome of a game result, to define if learning is taking place. Youth sports are not defined by wins and losses, and neither do early ‘elite’ level players provide an accurate indicator of a players future performance levels. All of the research proves this, yet the youth sports model is not adjusting to incorporate what we know, and governing bodies are still not utilizing this information to form its coach education.
A long-term player development plan is always communicated to parents at every club, how we are developing the players for the future. But ultimately, without the process of short-term goals and objectives, and ensuring players have fun and enjoy the now, the long-term player development plan is redundant. If burning out player from early specialization, treating young kids as elite athletes, and focusing more on the league, cup, and tournament entered across numerous States, is still the priority, then there are a huge number of potential players not reaching the elite levels of senior soccer, and a significant number of young talented players not making it to senior levels.
There here and now is more important, and what frames the evaluation and selection process.
Firstly, we identify the age-appropriate expectations of the individual player, in reference to the game model. Providing a road map towards that long term goal, but with a short-term view to guide the process.
Fundamental to Specific Specific to Performance
The evaluation process uses this short-term goal to help assign players to groups in which they can find the appropriate level of challenge and accompanying support. To often this process is seen as excellent, good, poor; and teams perceived to be ‘elite’ or not good. This is far from what a talent identification is aiming to do. Talent Identification is a predication of future potential, guided by the current rate of development. From the game model, age-appropriate individual elements are identified from player structures, and objectively viewed against the perceived rate of development.
Age and maturation is hugely influential on the youth players development, and to group players into teams of ability at ages below maturation is not found in any research to be accurate future predictors nor provide any benefit to the individual. In fact, it can be detrimental through the relative age effect. Where players are selected based on their characteristics through early maturation. Early physiological and cognitive development over technical performance.
To address this the Fremont YSC U9 and U10’s are not assigned by perceived rate of development, but by birth month as an age group, with club age group numbers assigned to their jerseys in reference to their age, providing a reminder that players should not be compared against each other, but focused on individually. The process takes priority over any short-term outcome, and curriculum design must match these objectives, and be heavily influenced by deliberate play to ensure a fun and engaging present, so the long term development can be realistic, through focusing on the now.