Last week, the Football Association in England (the FA) opened an incredible new facility (St. George’s Park) as the new home for all English youth national teams and the base for coaching education in England. It is a reflection of the massive amount of resources and focus being put into youth development around the world, and the recognition of the importance of providing great teaching and training to players at young ages.
As part of the excitement and ceremony surrounding the opening, current English National Team Assistant, (and former Manchester United great), Gary Neville was interviewed on the BBC about coaching, and specifically his thoughts about training as a youth player. (Gary Neville is the most capped right back in English history, and played for Manchester United more than 400 times over 20 years - from the time he joined the youth academy until his retirement in 2011.)
In the interview, Neville discussed the training sessions he went through with some of the world’s greatest coaches (Alex Ferguson, Carlos Queiroz, Brian Kidd, and more), and the lessons he learned that helped him become one of England’s all-time great players.
Neville’s comments dovetail interestingly with comments made by Daniel Coyle, author of the widely celebrated book The Talent Code, on his blog describing the characteristics of "bad" practice - and the ways to fix it. He described a poor practice both as one that has a “robotic sameness of performance” as well as a lack of “dammit” moments:
Dan Coyle’s comments dig deeper into the same topic that Neville spoke about. Whereas Gary Neville simply expressed the importance of repetition of key concepts and thoughts in elite athlete development, Coyle’s comments show that while it is incredibly important to constantly emphasize the same basic concepts and thoughts – the manner in which they are trained should constantly evolve to force the athlete to apply them in a new and different situation.
So how does this impact a youth female player at FC Wisconsin?
It is helpful to understand that, while the journey may differ, the path to becoming a great player is the same for everyone. You have the opportunity to take steps on that path – the choice of whether to take advantage of the opportunity is yours!