Fundamental technical skills must be acquired by a player’s teenage years - if not, the likelihood of the athlete progressing into elite sport is unlikely.
Most professional coaches agree that it is vital for youth athletes to develop the fundamental motor skills and sport-specific fundamentals between ages 8-12.
Former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said “It’s very simple. You build a player like you build a house. You start with the foundations. The fundamentals. The basis of a player is the technique. If you don't have technical ability at 14 you can forget it, you will never be a football player.”
However, due to limited practice time available to coaches working with children in this age range, time spent on individual skill acquisition and deliberate practice may be limited, as small-sided games are preferred to develop technical skills, because they cover tactical and physiological skills too, and are seen as a more economic use of session time. This highlights the need to introduce Individual Development Plans on and off the field.
Creating Individual Development Plans tailored to the individual is essential to their development of weaknesses as well further developing their strengths.
The Coaching Manual has developed the TopTekkers app to give coaches the functionality they need to design, assign, and monitor the individual training plans of their players, and give players the structure they need to efficiently practise away from the training field.
With TopTekkers, coaches can assign techniques to their players, who will log in and be presented with easy-to-follow directions, with video tutorials featuring age-appropriate children. The players complete challenges and are awarded with digital trophies, giving coaches sight of their progression.
Within the Elite Player Performance Plan, used in the UK, it is compulsory for clubs to design and monitor Individual Development Plans for players, where progress is recorded in the individual player’s performance clock. Individual plans are discussed around two to three times a year (based on the age group of the player) in meetings where the coach will discuss the IDP with the athlete and parent, discussing short and long term goals.
Research suggests that the most successful soccer clubs include such Individual Development Plans for players, as well as tailored discussions with individual players before, during, and after training sessions and match days.
Among the elite clubs in the UK that use TopTekkers to assign and monitor their Individual Development Plans are Burnley and Sheffield United, as well as Chicago Fire in MLS.
Jack Lester, Head of Academy at Sheffield United, said: “TopTekkers is simple, fun, and gives ownership of the game back to children, whilst providing our coaches with amazing insight into the practice habits of our youngest players.”
Children love using the app too. A recent survey revealed that more than 91% of children enjoy completing the challenges on TopTekkers.
To find out more about TopTekkers, which is free for coaches, visit www.toptekkers.club or download the app from the AppStore or Google Play today.