An important part of youth development is developing the entire person — not just the soccer player. We expect young people to go onto the field of play and make smart, correct decisions by themselves — so it is vital that we begin to develop these qualities early in their development.
When I talk to academy coaches across Europe or professional scouts they place a large emphasis on the psychological attributes of young players when evaluating potential. Is the player self-motivated, taking responsibility for their own development, has a strong mentality to overcome set-backs and do they have a strong capacity to learn?
The best players in the world have dedicated their life to a constant process of self-improvement. As they have amassed training hours and game -time they have had to navigate through challenges such as injuries, growth spurts, loss of form, criticism, self-doubt and external pressures from family and friends.
One method that young players can use to take greater ownership of their own development pathway is to self-asses their own performances, both in training and games.
When I was visiting the Crewe Alexandra academy more than 10 years ago, I noticed that they strived to have their young players take greater responsibility for their development. They had each player rate themselves after every game on a score from 1-3 (Poor/average/good) on the following criteria:
- Preparation for Match/Enthusiasm
- Team Attitude (We not Me)
- Individual Goal One (assigned by coach for each game)
- Individual Goal Two (also assigned by coach for each game)
They also had the young players give themselves a performance score (out of 10) for their overall display, as well as describing their best and worst moment of the match. The players completed this information after every game and handed this (in their player book) into the coaching staff. The coaching staff then provided their own feedback, in terms of scores and comments before handed this back to the players.
If the teams that young players play on do not have a similar feedback system in place, then there is no reason why young players cannot implement their own version of a player book to track performance progress. This kind of performance feedback is critical for elite athletes. They must understand their current performance levels, and must be seeking improvements on a daily basis (during training and games). This will help them understand their own strengths and areas of improvements.
Sample Individual Player Feedback Form
Position Played _________________
Game Performance Objective #1: _______________ Assessment Remarks _____________
Game Performance Objective #2: _______________ Assessment Remarks _____________
Game Performance Objective #3: _______________ Assessment Remarks _____________
Overall Performance Score: 1-10________________Assessment Remarks______________
Technical Performance Score 1-10 _______________Assessment Remarks_____________
Tactical Performance Score 1-10_________________Assessment Remarks_____________
Physical Performance Score 1-10_________________Assessment Remarks____________
Mental Performance Score 1-10 _________________Assessment Remarks____________
Preparation for Match/Enthusiasm Assessment Remarks_________________________
Three things did well ________________________________________________________
Three things Can Improve ____________________________________________________
Best Moment of Game _______________________________________________________
Most Challenging Moment of Game _____________________________________________
Player Tip: Start maintaining a training/games log to self-assess and track your performance
Coach Tip: Implement a two-way feedback system with your players in terms of individual player performance
Parent Tip: Encourage your child to learn to assess their performances and take more responsibility for their own development