Blog 3 – Difference Between Academy & Senior Players

The last section of this blog will look at some of the differences when working with younger players as opposed to senior players. We have discussed in length I think the general parameters around designing these individual player programmes at top end level (senior) and how to implement and progress. I guess the difference that comes into play, when working with academy players, is their age and current level of ability when you inherent them. The first big thing to remember as a coach, is that if you are working with an academy player, you will have them for a significant period of time, and it is important that you and your club design a long-term plan for that player, and not try to develop everything they will need as a senior player. You do not need to polish them early. They need significant building blocks, a foundation to move onto to more complex characteristics later on. Here’s my best attempt at a very broad understanding and example of this: If you are working with players in the foundation phase (8-11), then they do not need to touch the positional profiles at all. Make sure they have introductory ball manipulation skills and technique and start to think about individual movement to give them time and space. As well as some 1v1 attacking expression, and of course defending! As they move into the early youth development phase start picking some areas of the pitch they might end up playing (2-3 positions) and working on some very basic positional requirements, but do not get bogged down into the minute detail of tactics. Teach them key principles (open when we have the ball, get narrow when we don’t). When they reach the 15-16 ages, it is then important to start to create a position / two for each player depending on their skill set suited to it. You can now start teaching them the job roles and what they will need to be successful. This phase is really important as an educational phase for what it will take to be successful, and how to reflect on performance based on the job role. Then as you move through to the professional development phase (U17+), you will start to work on the details of each position and nuances that will make you good at your job. However, at any stae you must not forget the basics of physical movement around the pitch, and basic technical detail of receiving / passing / dribbling etc… Each age group has a responsibility to pass the baton over to the next one with the appropriate level of development ready to work on in the next phase, but if they haven’t mastered the basics, then you setting them up to fail regardless.

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