Player development can be broken into 5 major components:
- The household/parent/family influence
- The playing on your own influence
- The pickup game influence
- The structured club training influence
- The personal training influence
Each taps into a piece of the puzzle.
Some may be more important than others.
There’s definitely overlap between each.
And finally, in the end, there are still matters of circumstance that can make or break you.
All that complexity is what leads to differing opinions, nitpicking, and of course many thinking they’re an expert.
In the American soccer environment, the following is what has been validated by my experience time and time again.
1) The household/parent/family influence varies between cultures.
The “affluent suburban culture” is generally not conducive to top level player development for quite a few reasons. Here’s a couple:
- The values in this culture heavily emphasize academics, strict rule-following (kills creativity and street smarts), a soft ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality, among other things. All of which breed player mediocrity.
- A large proportion of parents in this demographic don’t seem to have much, if any, playing experience. Certainly not at a decent level. Nor do they have a soccer heritage where knowledge, culture, and experience can be passed down.
Do you guys understand that certain cultures are better equipped for achieving excellence in certain areas?
Shouldn't be so controversial.
— Gary Kleiban (@3four3) May 22, 2017
If you want to help remedy this, you better double down in the components below, and allow other cultures to permeate a player’s core values.
2) Playing on your own
Yes, we’re all aware of this. Go find a wall, and make it your best friend. Go find videos of world class players and try to mimic them.
3) Pickup Games
This is a huge deficiency in the traditional American player, particularly the suburban club soccer player. That’s a problem. As pickup games are perhaps an indispensable source to developing what is special in a player.
Without pickup games … the intangibles of flavor, technique, and mentality are compromised. Without pickup games, there’s a high probability a mediocre player is the end result.
4) Structured Club Training
This is where team-specific training is, and should be, the principal focus. Remember, football is a team game (11v11), it is not a player’s game.
In this regard, just about every club in the country, with the exception of maybe a few clubs that happen to be housing an outlier coach, completely fail with respect to top level player development.
They are not necessarily to blame, though, as there is little to no incentive to pursue the development of top level professionals.
As such, club business models are not aligned with excellence in training.
The mentality is soft.
Technique is not a priority.
Tactical training is essentially non existent.
5) Personal Training
Perhaps the only passing grade American soccer gets, is in this category. Maybe.
Not necessarily because what’s being offered is great, but rather an appreciable number of players subscribe to this, and it’s difficult to screw up. By far, the value proposition of personal training – as it currently exists – is large amounts of touches/repetitions.