“Well paid jobs in academy football are necessary to have higher quality teachers working with England’s youth players.”
- Matt Whitehouse
The previous quote from Matt Whitehouse inspired me to construct this blog post focused upon youth sports in the United States. Academy football in England provides a strong and effective youth program for the recruitment and development of young footballers (soccer players). Basically, it is their youth soccer system and most professional clubs run their own academy with coaches receiving salaries and benefits.
For effective development to occur in youth sports, the best and most knowledgeable coaches need to work with children between the ages of 7 and 12. Between the ages of 7 and 12, children are able to learn and develop skills at a much faster rate than after this “golden age of learning” ends. As I spoke about in a previous post, the youth coach must nurture passion, desire, and love for the activity in order to create an effective environment that promotes development and an enthusiasm to train.
In America – coaching children between the ages of 7 and 12 is not a glamorous endeavor. It is often low paid or a volunteer job that has no medical benefits or a retirement plan. Because of these factors, the supposed best coaches in the United States often look towards high school or college athletics as the place to apply their trade. These jobs offer benefits of increased pay, media attention, health benefits, and a retirement plan. The American professional coach has limited contact with the golden age of learning as they generally take over for a few months during the high school or college season well after the age of 12.
If the majority of learning for young athletes occurs between the ages of 7 and 12, shouldn’t the finest coaches in the land be working with this age group? In other words, the development system for coaching in America is upside down.
Players are molded, habits are created, and skill is developed in all fine motor skill sports for children between the ages of 7 and 12. By the time a player is in high school or college, the focus generally turns to tactical training as the shortness of the season and winning become the focus. Development for future successes and technical proficiency go out the window.
In order for the appropriate culture of development to be formed for the youth athlete, the teacher must be highly competent. Vary often, volunteers and youth coaches have the will but do not have the skill to create sessions that feature realistic experience and fun. These “coaches” have other jobs from 9 to 5 and hustle out to the athletic facility with limited knowledge or ability to create the environment necessary to promote success. I applaud their effort but doesn’t every participant deserve a coach that has the skill and the will to effectively educate?
College and high school coaches may have the skill to educate but sometimes lack the 100 percent focused effort on the youth participant. Their number one priority is generally their school team with little thought provided for the youth team except when they are driving to the facility to offer the training. You can forget about seeing the college coach on the weekend for games as these coaches are coaching their own games during their college season and recruiting in the off season. High school coaches have a greater chance to be involved with a youth team on the weekends outside of their season as this is their recruiting tool. This was me as a high school and college coach, making some extra money on the side as I rushed to the youth training session and games trying not to be late. Doesn’t the youth participant deserve a coach who focuses entirely on their development in a strategic manner?
How can youth athletics in the United States offer children between the ages of 7 and 12 the appropriate environment for skill and passion for the activity to develop? Are some coaches better at teaching children while others are better at teaching teenagers and adults?
It is a radical concept, but coaching within the youngest age groups must get better and become a priority for the United States to reclaim the ability to produce the best fine motor skill athletes in the world. Within my next post, I will continue to expand my ideas on how to provide a better opportunity for children in “the golden age” of learning.
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