Right Academy. The Shooter or The Target.
By Satyajit Sadanandan
Even casual soccer fans may know about Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. Both came through the renowned La Masia academy and were key to FC Barcelona’s recent success. But here’s what even many hardcore fans don’t know. When they were at La Masia academy at twelve and fourteen, they had not won anything. Not a single trophy! At eighteen and nineteen years old, they had lost more matches than they had won. But they went on to win many trophies for club and country including the World Cup and the Champions League.
And they are not exceptions in this aspect. The World’s best soccer academies never focus on winning at youth level. Young players who stand out are fielded in higher age groups and challenged to ensure maximum progress. And these academies don’t highlight youth tournament wins. They know the real prize is when the players graduate to elite senior football.
Unfortunately, this is not common knowledge. And Parents frequently take wrong decisions while choosing an academy for their child.
But, as shown in the previous three articles, selecting the right academy is vital for player development. And parents often make this choice based on wrong considerations like:
Smart Sports Parenting Tactics For Your Child
There are several factors that need to be considered while selecting an academy.
Obviously, the most important point is that each player is different and what works for one player may not work for another. So there is no one-size-fits-all ‘ideal’ academy that will suit every player.
That being said, here are some basic pointers you can use to filter academies for your child:
- Playing Time
- Match time is essential – bench time is not productive.
- Team (and Competition) Quality
- Your child needs to play in a team that is equal to or slightly superior to his or her current ability.
- If your child is the best player in the team or among the top players in the League, then he or she is not getting enough challenge to improve.
- If your child is playing in a league that is very one-sided then it may be time to consider better alternatives where the competition is more balanced.
- In the above scenarios, he or she is probably a benchmark for weaker players – good for them, but not for him/her.
- Make sure your child is the hunter, not the hunted.
The right team and league are where your child is not the stand-out player. Rather there should be better players that he or she can learn from and use to progress. This is why when a player is very good at a particular age group, it is important to move that player up – one or two years at least.
However, one needs to make sure that the physical differences are not overwhelming. Otherwise, the player can end up learning the wrong techniques to cope up with physically superior players. Techniques that would be hard to reverse as time passes. Good coaches and academies will know this though and ensure it doesn’t happen.
The trouble is that most Players (and Parents) are clueless when it comes to knowing where they really stand in comparison to their team or competition. Especially while selecting the Academy. An independent assessment and benchmarking will enable the player and parent to take the right decision.
- Selecting the right academy is vital for your child’s progress.
- The right team and league are the one where your child is appropriately challenged.
- Independent assessment and benchmarking of the player will help in making the right choice.