By John Cartwright
Recently I have heard several radio sports’ programs discuss the problem of poor player development here in the UK. Numerous reasons have been suggested as why insufficient ‘home-bred’ youngsters are not coming through the Academy system to reach regular first team positions – the increase in foreign players into our game – poor coaching standards – low individual ability in skills and game understanding etc. All of these comments have an element of truth but I have not heard anybody mention what I consider to be the real reason for our developmental demise —– the lost ‘Diamond’ of learning and high performance —-‘PRACTICE TIME’!
Kids, going back five decades or more have been involved in the game of football without the tens of thousands of hours PRACTISING WHILST PLAYING as was the case in the streets, debris and playgrounds close to their homes all over the country. Those hours cemented skills and tactical decisions of the game in the realistic, competitive, small-sided games that went on for hours. These deprived, playing areas were in constant use whereas today’s ‘pristine’ centres are often unused. At football clubs, facilities are mostly of high standards; footwear-kit-equipment-medical care-fitness methods-food-playing surfaces etc. have all been improved as vast sums of money have entered the game, but individual playing standards have not improved in my opinion. As regular readers of the blog articles I have provided will know, I have been a long-term critic of the numerous coaching schemes and the corresponding competitive infrastructure introduced by our FA over the years but my comments and suggestions have generally been ignored by our ‘out-of-touch’ football hierarchy.
The FA has been in control of coaching and development since the early 1950’s but there has been scant thought about what our attitude and approach to the game should be. Coaching programs over the years have been introduced without first visualising how we should play the game. This has been a major fault in football development here with coaching programs introduced without a target to achieve, creating ..……a route to nowhere!
It was because of my deep concern about development methods in use here that I decided to write the PREMIER SKILLS COACHING METHOD. I spent a long time contemplating about a national playing style – a style that suited the game’s Teachers, the game’s Players and the game’s ‘Watchers’. Once my vision for our game was established it was then possible to set a ‘pathway’ towards reaching it. The content of the programs on the ‘pathway’ from junior to senior level were expressly concerned with overcoming the lost practice-time factor of the past and incorporating suitable realism to practices along the way.
Without resolving the major issue of lost practice time all the new innovations entering the game will be of little value and playing qualities will continue to fall. Millions of touches of the ball, combined with the millions of realistic playing decisions were once part of ‘street development’ and they created the ‘foundations’ for the playing of game both here and in many overseas countries……and must be re-introduced into today’s coaching format.
I believe that the PREMIER SKILLS COACHING METHOD provides the solution for coaches searching for the lost ‘Diamond’ …… ‘PRACTICE TIME’ in development…….and restore the qualities that are so necessary in the playing of the game to the highest standards.