Our Approach to Competitive Player Development

Competitive players deserve to have an independent and professional coach responsible for evaluating them.  The Technical Director will assist head coaches to make these decisions in order to preserve the integrity of the environment we place them in.  Competitive challenges are healthy for players and enable them to grow.  We can and will challenge our players by allowing them the opportunity to move from group to group, and also between different age groups, when warranted by their play and personal progress.  The goal is to create an environment that will stimulate the continued growth of the players by providing each of them with the opportunity to get to the next level of play within the club at any time.  All such movement will be done at the sole discretion of the Technical Director and staff coaches.

We will focus our training, development, and evaluation of players on the four major components that make up a complete soccer player and closely monitor each players development.

Technical

A player’s individual technique and comfort level on the ball under conditions of limited time, space, and increased pressure.

• Receiving the ball
• Redirecting the ball
• Moving with the ball
• Moving without the ball

Tactical

A player’s ability to make proper decisions with and without the ball based on an understanding of basic attacking and defensive principles; a player’s ability to read the game properly.

Physical

A player’s coordination, mobility, balance, speed, endurance, and strength.

Psychological

A player’s mindset and motivation; how a player faces problems/ pressures encountered both on and off the field of play and how the player chooses to deal with those problems/pressures.

Player Development versus Winning

While we demand that our players strive to win every time they take the field for training or games, winning is not the primary objective for the club.  Our primary objective is centered around, and driven by, the goal of developing individual high-level players in a competitive environment.  To achieve this objective, we must allow players to make mistakes even if we lose games in doing so.  For example, a pass back may be intercepted by a striker when the outside back fails to put the right pace on the ball while passing back to the goalkeeper to maintain possession.  The tactical thought was correct but the weight of the pass was the mistake.  This is the only way the coaching staff can analyze those mistakes, help our players correct them, and ask them to try again the next time.  In short, if the players are not allowed to make mistakes then they are not allowed to develop.

We believe that winning games will ultimately be a byproduct of our ability to develop well-rounded soccer players over time.  Therefore, winning every game is not our primary objective and will not be how we measure our success as a club.  However, there are times when winning a particular game may be beneficial for a particular age group/team or the club in general. For example; state cup & high profile tournaments, etc.

“Club Based” versus “Team based”

Infinity SC is designed and structured to be a true professionally run youth soccer club with the understanding that it take time to change the culture and focus of a community. Patience in perfecting the desired club model will be the reason for our long term success. We understand that although we are currently serving our club members at the highest level in Northern Utah that we are truly building for future generations to have advantages that our community has yet to see.  Our club model is similar to top youth soccer clubs from all over the world and very unlike most youth sports organizations in the United States.  We place a strong emphasis on club unity and this theme is reflected in the entire club programming.  In our training program in particular, we do not operate as a group of loosely connected teams following separate and individual agendas.  Instead, we believe in adhering to a single, club-wide playing philosophy and style, which is defined by our Technical Director and coaching committee, and rigorously implemented by all members of the club coaching staff.  This helps to create a consistent learning environment throughout the program for all our players.  We feel there are great advantages in developing individual players within a true club environment.  Our emphasis on club unity will be evident in everything we do, including:

• Consistent use of our club logo and colors.
• Uniform appearance of all players and staff at training sessions and games.
• Players are considered members of our “club” and not any particular “team”.
• Players are trained collectively by age group with movement of players from group to group.
• We are one club, one club name, one family.

 

We have a universal expected duty to do what is in the best interest of the individual player and what is best to allow all the players to enjoy their experience with soccer. Too often, many soccer club officers and coaches adopt “team building concepts” that are borrowed from the professional game even though they are not appropriate for youth. This is common in the state of Utah and most states and clubs in the U.S. hindering development.  The main difference between youth play and professional play is the concept of” who comes first—the player or the team.” At the professional level, the team comes first.  The professional team has a clear hierarchy of starters and “substitutes,” squad players, etc.  Substitutes are paid handsomely to sit on the bench and be called upon if and when needed. Everyone on the professional team is expected to put the team first and to sacrifice himself for the sake of the team. The result is all that matters at the pro level.At the youth level, the player must come first! Every decision made by the club and coach should be in the best interest of individual players.  For example:

1) A youth player should not be kept in goal against his/her wishes just because she is the best keeper and “the team needs her” to win the game.
2) Coaches should not hold onto players at a lower playing level just to help the team win games.  The better player should be allowed to move up to the next level in order to help him/her reach their potential, even if it means that the team they leave behind will be weakened.
3) Every player must play in every game, not left to sit on the bench for the entire game because the team must win.

The concepts of cooperation between teammates, helping teammates, learning to trust others, and being respectful of teammates are certainly team building concepts that should be introduced to young players.  But the concept of “sacrifice for the team” is not appropriate for youth sport.  We cannot in all good conscience ask young players to sacrifice their future potential just to bolster the team’s “win” column.  We cannot deny young players the enjoyment of playing, since soccer is their leisure activity, and every player deserves to play. That is why a club structure is important to see that each player is in the appropriate program and training group based upon their individual goals in soccer.

The benefit of having a club structure that is united and organized in a way for total soccer development is that players feel that they are a part of something bigger than their individual team.  They are proud to put on their club colors every time they step on the field and they enjoy competition at either the Advanced or Youth Center levels.  Competing for something is healthy, it builds character, self esteem, and cooperation skills not only necessary to deal with the many ever changing situations in the game of soccer but in day to day life as these young people grow into young adults.

Phases of Soccer Development

Every child that is introduced to the game of soccer embarks on a journey of discovery; starting from the moment he/she first touches the ball.  The ones that eventually develop into high-level players go through the following phases of growth, generally in the sequence shown:

Phase 1 — Introduction to Soccer

The first experience of organized play usually occurs anywhere between 4 to 12 years old.  The player’s first exposure to teams, coaches, practices and games.  The players first attempt at mastering the skills of the game.  Soccer might not be the only sport played, as the player dabbles in many sports and activities.  If the introductory experience was fun, the player might move on to phase 2.  If the experience was not enjoyable, the player will likely drop out of soccer.

Phase 2  — Commitment to Soccer

If the introductory phase proves an enjoyable experience, the player will decide that he/she likes soccer and is keen to continue playing the game.  The most common motivators for continuing to play soccer are a) discovering the freedom inherent in soccer, the players game – the freedom to run and do with the ball whatever the instinct dictates, b) a noticeable or rapid gain in skill, c) having a ‘fun’ coach, and d) enjoying the social aspects of team sport.  It’s not necessary for all of the above four motivators to exist together for a commitment to be made.  All it takes is one reason.  And it’s not necessarily just the best players who make a commitment to soccer.  Players of all abilities can fall in love with soccer and make it their sport of choice. Once a player chooses soccer as his/her main sport and commits to playing it on a regular basis, soccer becomes an integral part of the weekly routine and is ingrained into the family life.

Phase 3 — Commitment to Excellence

Once soccer is chosen as the main sport, players begin to acquire soccer idols as they spend more and more time watching high-level games.  And with exposure to high-level soccer, come the dreams about emulating their idols.  At this stage, many players start to compare themselves to their peers and begin to wonder whether they are good enough to play the game at a high level.  Unfortunately, some players quit soccer at this stage, when the realization that they are not as good as their peers hit home.  But some develop an aspiration to become top players and make a commitment to work on their game.  They are hooked!  A player who is committed to excellence trains on his/her own in addition to the normal team practices.  He/she watches games intently, trying to learn from the best.  He/she becomes self-analytical, constantly looking to improve, and basically eats, drinks, sleeps soccer.

Phase 4 — Commitment to Winning

This is the stage when a player reaches a high level of technical and tactical maturity and, with it, a competitive streak.  The player is seriously looking at a college or professional career in soccer and therefore, sets high standards, both for himself and for his team.  The player who is committed to winning has no patience for slackers, wants to play with other players of similar ability and drive, and is looking to constantly challenge herself in practice and in games.

Implication

The phases described above are intrinsically developed within each player.  Adults cannot and should not push or ‘fast track’ players through these phases but rather allow the players to progress at their own pace.  Some players show promise early while others mature later with time.  It typically takes 6 to 10 years for players to go from phase 1 to phase 4. Adults cannot decide for the players in which phase they need to be.  Let the players decide!  Most players never progress beyond the first phase, let alone reach the fourth one.  Our task, as a club, is to provide all our players the programs, resources and the opportunity to advance through the phases of development without putting any pressure on them.  We must let our players decide for themselves how much they want to commit.