265 million people play football regularly, however only 0.04% of them play in a professional league. only 1 out of every 1.000 football players in Norway play in their top league. So it is extremely hard to create a great football player. Here are 10 steps you can take to increase the chances of you succeeding in creating a great player like Messi.
1. Increase coach education massively, identify and develop the best possible coaches, become better educated than the countries, clubs or teams you are competing with. Get coach education out to as many as possible as you cannot know who is the youth coach who is developing the next Messi. That coach needs to have the tools to teach him the right things at the right age.
2. Introduce and implement ability based grouping in training and matches, but coach all the players, not just the best ones. If you think it is a good idea to only coach the best players at each age group then look at the careers of late developers like these players to name a few. Give all the kids quality coaching for as long as you can as you never know who is going to make it.
3. Make sure that the coach to number of players ratio is good to ensure quality of feedback and instruction (see research of Benjamin Bloom).
4. Make sure facilities are good enough and access to the facilities is good for players of all ages. They don´t have to be the best but they have to be good enough to play football all year. The best football stadium is useless for development if kids don´t get access to train and play there.
5. Make sure that players that are good enough train and play with an age group above them do so. The best girls can train with boys. Iceland is probably the country that gets the most out of their small population of football players. In Iceland all players play with an age group above them for half of their youth careers!
6. Put heavy focus on teaching technical skills training from age 6-13 aim to develop as many players as possible with a technical foundation to become elite players. It is too late to develop technical skills at the highest level when you get older. This is where most big countries fail and settle for parent coaches, volunteer coaches and uneducated coaches for their youngest age groups.
7. Encourage home work for the players of technical skills training with the ball. Good example is The Icelandic FA technical skills school DVD.
8. Create a football culture where technical proficiency is celebrated and admired. Remember the 265 million people that train football. In 2010 the 3 best players in the world all grew up at the same club in the same youth academy - La Masia at Barcelona. Barcelona won the Champions League in 2009 with 8 homegrown players in their starting lineup. So what is their philosophy in developing players?
9. Develop grit and a growth mindset in children from day 1 (see research on gritfrom Angela Duckworth and Mindset from Carol Dweck). These are in my mind the two biggest things happening in Sport psychology for football players. Here I talk more about mentality.
10. Should you have talent identification, then search for players who have technical proficiency, great will to learn, that have grit and growth mindset. Players that never give up their quest for their long term goal. Look for competitiveness. Look for young players who take ownership for their training, that have good movement skills and make clever decisions with the ball. Players that read the game and relate to others in doing so. Look at their parents, if they are dedicated too and have a background in the sport that may help.
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Siggi Eyjolfsson. Technical director/coach education director
The Football Association of Iceland. 2002-2014. UEFA Pro licence coach from English FA,
M.Sc. in Sport psychology