The ultimate development project

By: Elite Soccer

Horst Wein is an internationally recognised youth football coach who has devised a development model and programme of work to help coaches build on the progressive development of their young players. He is also a Master Coach for the International Hockey Federation (IFH) and is an Olympic Silver Medal winner.

This excellent book provides coaches with a five-level programme in order to best engage children from the youngest ages through to adolescence and beyond.

Coaching Philosophy

Beginning with a Philosophy for Coaching Football, Wein emphasises the need for children to be challenged to the appropriate level of their intellectual, physical and psychological development at any given time.

Challenged appropriately, children will learn quickly, effectively and thoroughly – get it wrong and we may lose them to the game.

Wein reminds us that ‘success’ in football will not come instantly, it is a long-term endeavour, despite the fact that society today is used to an ‘instant’ world (coffee, food, information).

Natural Development of Young Players

In the first chapter of the book, Horst Wein warns against introducing activities that are too complex too soon, demanding too much of young players, and of using inefficient coaching methods.

Again referring to the long-term nature of teaching football to young players he draws a parallel with young people in school learning a language over a period of eight years to reach a level of competency.

Advocating active player participation, Wein states that too many ‘drills’ will stifle a young player’s potential. Instead, use of practices that develop players’ perception, decision making skills, analysis of game situations all within an appropriate level of ‘stress’ (i.e. game related situations – not a coach yelling at them!) will help the player develop the skills of the game.

Allowing children more control and thus stimulating their minds will set us on the right development path. 

Wein gives us his 10 rules in order to generate efficient learning and a series of considerations on how best to meet the needs of the young people.

Finally, in this first chapter, we are presented with a ‘Bill Of Rights for Young Football Players’ all of which help to give us, as the coach, the child’s perspective.

Development Model

Moving on, Wein presents us with a football development ‘model’. This comprehensive structure gives a guide as to the types of skills we should expect children to learn across five levels, from age six/seven and up to adolescence, 15 and upwards.

In addition to the skills, we are also shown the format of the game ages should play from 2v2 through 4v4, 7v7, 8v8 all the way to 11v11 and the types of ‘assessments’ we can create to test children’s understanding/competence levels. This will then inform us, as coaches, as to where we are and how we should either progress or revisit certain aspects of practice. Wein revisits the coaching philosophy and looks specifically at competition philosophy and helps coaches to understand that providing positive feedback at all times in order to help build children’s self-esteem and ensure they are happy, will reap the best rewards.

We are introduced to a series of requirements in order to develop more creative players.

Development Activities

Through the next sections of the book we are provided with specific examples of drills, games and practices from basic abilities for the youngest players to simplified games for mini-football, 7v7 and on through 8v8.

A comprehensive series of diagrams of practices are provided with clear explanations as to organisation, the purpose of the practice, and the learning objectives – all provided together with a series of appropriate questions to ask players in order to help their understanding, analysis and application of what they learn.

Using appropriate questions is possibly one of the most effective tools in coaching but is also one of the most difficult skills to master as a coach. This book gives the reader types of questions relevant to the specific practice and whilst possible answers are also provided, this element of the book will certainly assist coaches to develop this important skill.

Ladders

Not fast feet ladders, these ladders are a series of ‘tests’ that coaches can organise with their players to test themselves against a range of opponents at a variety of individual skills or small-sided games.

Horst Wein provides us with ‘corrective’ games we can play by referring back to more simplified practices if players have not yet grasped and can apply principles of a particular aspect of the game.

Presented in the book is virtually the whole gamut of practice from “constant” (low level practice with little or no decision making, mainly motor skill development) to “variable” (where there is interference from others not necessarily trying to take your ball) to “random” where the practice may be a simplified version structured for success (e.g. with an overload). This goes right through to a game with matched opposition.

Goalkeeping

Recognising that the goalkeeper is a part of the team (not ‘apart’ from it), there is also a complete section in the book focussing on the specific needs of the young shot-stopper. The games and exercises demonstrated here will give every young player the opportunity to try out the different (and some similar) skills from the outfield player’s repertoire.

Taking Football Into The Future

In closing the book, Wein invites us, as coaches, to respect the past and study the game of the present but also to anticipate the game of the future.

Old ways are no longer effective in teaching the game to children (if they ever were) and as coaches we should strive for our own improvement if we are to develop players of the future.

We are encouraged to change the way we think and, especially, to consider what and, more particularly, HOW we teach.

He acknowledges that having identified a weakness in either a player or the team is not enough. As coaches, we must seek the root of the issue and plan and prepare a practice that will help the individual or group learn the part of the puzzle that is missing. Finding a 100% solution is difficult (if not impossible).

In closing the book, Wein states that the process of continuous improvement never ends – and is true for both players and coaches.

Developing Youth Football PlayersHorst Wein.