Growth in youth players… it’s not fair!

I was doing part of this season’s CPD on growth and maturity in youth players – it makes a big difference in boys and girls as their bodies mature. This has a big effect on a young player’s success in sport.

There is always a big discussion about the development age of players and the difficulty for smaller players in their age groups. Smaller players are often the ones left sitting on the subs bench, not because they weren’t skilful enough but because the other kid was much bigger and so the coach preferred him.

I saw this recently when I watched an Under 10s team lose 17-0 and the difference between the sides was one boy who was twice the size of everyone else. It wasn’t his fault but I fail to see what he is learning when he is scoring 10 goals in a game, brushing smaller players aside and kicking the ball much harder.

Size is an advantage

His problem will be that by using his size during his golden years of learning, he will not acquire the skills necessary to play as he is doing now once the other players have caught him up in size. And they will catch him up. I saw this in one of my own teams a number of years ago when we had a player who was an outstanding kicker of the ball, purely because of his size.

However, once the other players caught him up he could no longer get away with pure power because it was no better than anyone else. Eventually the frustrations of trying to learn how to play the game over again drove him to rugby and that became his main sport.

Help and encouragement

Knowing what I do now I should have done more to help him and to encourage him to learn more skills. But I was an inexperienced coach and failed to realise that this would happen. I never thought that eventually he would not be the best player on the pitch. This is why the powers that be must give guidance to all the young coaches. I know that there is a huge opportunity for coaches to take advantage of these rules but I am sure with time very few will ‘cheat’ by putting out giants to blast their way to the top.

I felt for the boy who celebrated all of his 10 goals with enthusiasm, because just around the corner there will be a time when he is no longer the biggest player on the pitch and more skilful players will take the ball off him.

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