Two youngsters take part in an FA Tesco Skills day.
By Peter Glynn - Tuesday, 31 March, 2009
FA Skills Coach, Peter Glynn, looks at the role of Talent ID in football.
Recognising emerging talent and flourishing potential in young footballers is an issue which has fascinated, flummoxed and frustrated football coaches and scouts since the game began.Every weekend, the length and breadth of the country, swarms of men and women often bedraggled in official club regalia, descend on children’s football games in the hope of unearthing the next big thing. Flitting from sideline to sideline they go, eye’s wide with anticipation, like bargain hunters at a car boot sale, all of them desperate to find the ‘one’. Be it a piece of ornate crockery with a few pounds off or a seven year old, with a tall dad who can do a drag back; the search is relentless and the competition fierce.A brief look at the history of talent identification in football shows that everything from physical testing and measurement, via psychological profiling and attitude tests through to retracing the branches of family trees, have been used to foresee the future of your child. In some cases, these assessments and criteria checks have been the end of a child’s hopes and dreams, often at an age when, in their dreams they’ve not even managed to get their boots on."He’s no chance. His length of kick isn’t long enough and he can’t throw. I’ll ring the nursery and let them know he can play for them again next week," and so it goes on.According to such evaluation; I wonder whether pulling your sleeves over your hands, when it is bitterly cold, is a sign of a lack of resilience or a unique ability to solve problems in the face of the dynamic environment and ever changing weather system?The ability to master a set of core skills and then repeat on command has also been vogue in talent identification and the prediction of future success. But in the majority of cases the key to a child’s footballing future has been turned by wild hunches, guess work, and dare I say it, decisions made sometimes on the way a child may ‘look’. All these decisions disguised and justified with the throw away comment; "I’ve just got a feeling about this one"."Listen to me"During more reflective moments I like to consider what some of the genuine footballing artists, past and present, would have looked like when they were at the age, when in this country their future destiny may already have been decided.Could you imagine an excitable twelve year old Wayne Rooney standing patiently in line, ball in hand, ready for the coaches whistle to signal his turn at shooting at goal? Or would he have been at the back of the queue tripping people up, throwing mud and bouncing the ball; quite possibly cast aside, by some, as not having the ‘right attitude’ or lacking ‘focus’.I was once told a story about an eight year old being released from a club because he seemed more interested in playing with the sand on the astroturf than joining in the coaching session. Could it be that the boy was so bored with the coaching session that playing with the sand was a perfectly understandable escape from the dull rhetoric of the all knowing coach? Or maybe here in our midst was a boy with the potential to be the greatest sand sculptor since, well, the last great sand sculptor.Would Maradona, George Best or Pele aged seven or eight have been the child in your session who hangs off every word you say? Or would they have been the last one to come in when you said bring the balls in; instead scooping, spinning, flicking, balancing and dancing with the ball, lost in another world where debriefs where exchanged for half volleyed last minute winners and solo runs from the half way line? Furious at their disobedience, they’re obeying the demands of their imagination and scoring just one last goal in their head.I have been asked in the past whether I thought Cruyff, Best or Pele would have survived in the cut and thrust of today’s modern game?I can just see the release form now: Name: Johan Cruyff. Age: 10. Reason for release: Never seems to be concentrating. Mind elsewhere. Think’s too much.To comment on this article please contact Peter at Pete.Glynn@TheFA.com
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