I’ve just got back from a couple of weeks holiday to find my inbox is stuffed with questions from coaches who have, like me, got back and found a bunch of players they don’t recognize from the ones that took a break at the end of April. Here is a common question:
“We’ve met up after the summer break and a number of my players are experiencing growth spurts. I feel that I should be capitalising on this in the way we play – what can I do?”
The best thing to do is… nothing! While from a coaches perspective the sudden realisation that your squeaky-voiced, pintsized forward has turned into a booming, lofty hitman, may provide excitement and a plethora of tactical scribbles, the whole thing probably isn’t quite as thrilling for the player himself.
For a start, going through this stage of adolescence can be very uncomfortable for youngsters. They are extremely self-conscious and many are embarrassed about the drastic ways their bodies are changing. Therefore, immediately seizing on such a change and exploiting it for the team’s success might be regarded as slightly insensitive.
Secondly, those players who have experienced growth spurts often have to relearn certain parts of their game.
Legs are longer so they don’t operate with the same efficiency as before, and balance can be affected by stretched torsos.
For players experiencing a growth spurt, their feet, bones and muscles are undergoing significant redevelopment and there is a far greater risk of injury as a result, so as a coach I would let the player ease into his new structure first, and then think about utilising this added height or speed to your advantage – but only when he is comfortable with it.
Try this pre-season game Changing of the guard from my digital magazine Soccer Coach Weekly to get your players back in sync with their bodies.