You can not be all things to all people.
You have to pick.
Let’s consider you have a single roster that you get to work with for a certain number of hours per week.
I think we can all agree this roster is comprised of players with unique qualities and varying levels of talent (or perceived talent anyways).
So no matter what you do, the design and execution of your sessions, along with the culture you establish, is either targeting a certain group most, or it’s not targeting anybody.
Let me explain.
Suppose we partition your roster into 3 groups:
- Best players
- Average players
- Weakest players
Each group is on a different point on the development curve, and hence ideally requires different things.
You as a coach in a team environment can’t do it all. You can’t develop “All Players to Their Potential”.
You’ve got choices to make.
Do you target:
- The best?
- The average?
- The weakest?
- try to “mix it up”?
You must choose! Otherwise you have no real plan or philosophy on development.
If you haven’t chosen, you’re just winging it; and are either a bullshitter (not ok), or are still in the trial and error stages (which is ok … to a point).
Now let’s explore what happens with these choices.
Pick the weakest …
- … and the average are not being pushed.
- … and the best are totally getting screwed.
Pick the average …
- … and the weakest are being pushed.
- … and the best are still getting screwed.
Pick the best …
- … and the weakest are getting ultra-pushed, perhaps too much, perhaps not.
- … and the average are getting pushed.
Not So Fast
Let me guess, your solution is “Mixing it Up”.
Well, how and why you ‘mix it up’ are the critical questions.
How much time do you spend targeting each of the 3 groups? Because ‘mixing it up’ has an averaging effect.
For the purpose of illustrating, let’s take a simplistic model where we spend equal amounts of time with each group and the net ‘development’ is a linear addition of the above graphics.
Then our result becomes:
No matter what you do, your ultimate long term development program has benefited some more than others. And ultimately your work has fallen somewhere on the weakest to best player spectrum.
The Asymmetry of Development
- If you target the weakest, you must aim higher than their level.
- If you target the average, you must aim higher than their level.
- If you target the best, you must aim higher than their level.
So you tell me, what is the best solution to development in a team environment?
Narrowing the Distribution
This is why narrowing the distribution, or gap, between the best and worst players on a roster is important. When you have all players of similar level, coaching to the ‘best’ of the group is just about the same as coaching to the worst. Hence giving you a reasonable position to attacking the problem of “developing all players to their potential”.
So the question is: If the gap in your roster is too big to have this ideal case, what is the best way of narrowing that gap?
Do you target the worst in hopes they will ‘catch up’ to the best (screwing the best over in the process)?
Or do you still target the best and look to recruit better players and release the ones who aren’t at, or can’t reach, the level?
For this, again, we need context.
If we’re talking about a specific roster, and the ultimate objective is to maximize the probability of developing quality professionals, the choice is clear.
This is why the existence of A, B, & C teams within a club is a good thing.
But this doesn’t stop with the objective of quality pro player development. Having a system where each player competes at their respective levels seems optimum.
Of course every player should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, but the roster size has a limit. And the standard needs to be set high, not low.