Using Pre-Season Friendlies for Player Development

On August  17, all FC Wisconsin Eclipse teams participated in friendly pre-season competition against the Sockers FC - Chicago ECNL teams in Milwaukee.  In total, 6 games were played from U13-U18, providing opportunity for players and teams to continue preparation for the 2013-2014 ECNL season.  The games were all competitive, reflected by several ties and every game but one decided by 1-2 goals.

"The pre-season period is, first and foremost, another developmental part of the season," said FC Wisconsin Eclipse coach Andy Lee.  "We keep our focus on individual technical and tactical development in this period of the year just like any other.  The games provide an opportunity to see where the players are in this developmental process, and to put some of these concepts into bigger tactical situations."

"We look at games as an extension of the developmental path," said coach Vito Parente.  "First, we look to have 3-4 trainings for every game that our players compete in.  This insures that the players get significant time to focus on individual areas of improvement, and to train the concepts that are required for long-term success.  This is one of the best parts of being in the ECNL - as it allows us to plan our entire season based on long-term development needs."

The ECNL is structured to allow teams to focus on development through allowing teams to create a high training-to-game ratio, (a minimum of 3-4 trainings to 1 game is recommended by developmental experts), and also by making all competitions both very high-level and meaningful for the entire year - not just at certain points.

"In other competition formats, teams are forced to put a lot of emphasis very early in the season and at young ages on set pieces and other big picture tactics in order to win a championship and get to meaningful games later in the season against better opposition," said FC Wisconsin Eclipse Director Christian Lavers.  "That isn’t good for long-term player development.  In the ECNL, we don’t have that pressure, and instead can look at where we want our players to be 6, 12 and 18-months down the road.  Every game is very high level, and no game is a ’one-and-done’ situation.  This helps create a better environment for long-term improvement."

This philosophy extends all the way into the pre-season competitions, where each team plays a limited number of games, with specific emphasis on the style of play desired, and with focus on long-term performance targets for the players.

FC Wisconsin Eclipse teams have 2 more weeks of pre-season training before their first ECNL competitions in Denver over Labor Day weekend.

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