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Why Developing Creative Confident Players At A Young Age Is So Important


Girl running down ball

By Kevin Butler

We’ve seen this play out on thousands of soccer fields across the country, for teams with players between the approximate ages of 13 and 18 years old. Suzy makes a pass to Sally but rather than going to her feet, it ends up misdirected 10 yards to the side. Billy breaks free and only has one player to beat before going to goal, but dribbles right into the defender and coughs up the ball. Johnny has a wide open shot and just needs to redirect with his left foot, but noooooo… he brings it back to his right and loses the ball. Emily, she’s been practicing the scissors for weeks at practice, but still won’t try it in the game, because she has no confidence. Sound familiar? I’d bet if we took a survey, we’d end up with a hundred other examples.

Why does this happen?

Largely, we don’t know how to train the right things at the right time, and we get caught up in this crazy world’s definition of what success is. (Win today, Buy today, Go bigger today, etc)

  1. Someone uses a Manchester United Academy session for U8 players, thinking if it’s a session for ManU, it must work for my team, right?

  2. A player fails at trying something new and we say “Why’d you do that? Don’t do it again” as we crush their confidence.

  3. We want to satisfy our players’ parents’ desire to win today, so we put the tallest fastest one up front, hit the ball forward, and go for goal.

Children don’t drive cars at 12 years old for a reason. (Yes, my grandfather was a farmer also, and drove the dump truck at 12, but stay with me). We need to learn certain things at certain ages in order to do more when we get older. Ride a tricycle, a bicycle, a go-cart, etc. If we don’t learn the right skills early on, we can’t perform more complicated tasks when we’re older because we haven’t mastered the basics.

We need to develop players by teaching them Age & Stage appropriate skills, we need to be incredibly positive in their development, keeping them challenged as they grow, and giving them confidence to try new things, even though they may fail the first many times they try. When we do this, we create players that dominate the 1v1, have the courage to take on and beat their defender, have the skills to support their teammate with passes or runs, and can finish on goal with fire. We have to do the right things when players are young. It’s too hard and often too late when they’re older. When we do it right, we see changes. Suzy makes a quality pass with pace to her teammate. Billy breaks free and “breaks the ankles” of the defender as he beats him. Johnny can use both feet and easily scores with his left. And Emily… Emily not only was practicing the scissors, but combined it with a foot roll and a step-over, and had the confidence to do this in the game 4 different times.

We need to develop confident creative players starting at the youngest ages, with Age & Stage appropriate skill sets, so when they are older they have the maturity, confidence, and skill necessary to take on more complicated tasks.

The Meulensteen Method accomplishes everything outlined above. For more information, visit our website or give us a call, (616) 334-7208 or (616) 635-3600.

Want more tips and insight into how to develop creative, confident players? Or, how to take your club to the next level? Subscribe to the Meulensteen Method e-newsletter or follow us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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