Youth development programs in Belgium, Croatia, and the USA have many things in common. Here is a breakdown of how coaches from each country use similar tools that lead to success.
Belgium: Kris Van der Haege – Director of Coach Education
Croatia: Martin Novoselac – Youth Football Developer
USA: Karl Dewazien – FUNdamental SOCCER
- PLAYER-CENTERED APPROACH
Belgium: One of the main principles is that the main actor is the player, not the coach, not the team.
Croatia: They will know how to shoot, play one-touch and dribble. But choices are left to them.
FUNdamental SOCCER (USA): Create an environment that forces the players to make decisions and learn on their own. Create an atmosphere where the players are allowed to teach themselves.
2. SMALL-SIDED GAMES
Belgium: Kids want to play football in their own way, not the way adults want to play.
Croatia: For decades now, games under the age of twelve have been small-sided games at the schoolchild level.
FUNdamental SOCCER: (1980) ‘Modified Rules’ written/copyrighted for California Youth Soccer Association to use. (1984) ‘Modified Playing Guides’ included in ‘FUNdamental SOCCER –Practice’ book. (1990) USYSA given permission to publish ‘Modified Playing Rules’ in a hand-out entitled, ‘Young Player Development Program’. (2017) US Soccer mandates playing of small-sided games in the USA.
3. GIVING PLAYERS FREEDOM
Belgium: Create the environment, free them and help only if it’s necessary.
Croatia: There is never a focus solely on dribbling, passing, or anyone learning outcome. The focus has been on decision-making and the correct selection of skill set in each scenario.
FUNdamental SOCCER: Discipline your mind to focus on what is being taught and ignore all other mistakes. Avoid causing paralysis through analysis.
4. GAME-BASED PRACTICE
Belgium: Players must be in an environment of making decisions by themselves.
Croatia: Coaches have been encouraged for decades to encourage individuality so long as the decision-making has been correct.
FUNdamental SOCCER: The ‘9-Step Practice Routine’ is a game-based practice. “If it happens in the game, DO it in practice. If it doesn’t happen in the game, DON’T do it in practice.”
5. WINNING DOESN’T MATTER
Belgium: We don’t have league tables until the Under-14 level.
Croatia: “Our boys do not play in real competitions until they are 12 or 13, and even then, the result is not everything. It’s not rocket science. People focused on results before developments are a curse on the future of the game.”
FUNdamental SOCCER: Motto – “The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play!”
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