OK… Here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed. Lightning McQueen
My son loves the Pixar movie, Cars. The excitement and thrill of watching Lightning McQueen burn rubber, leaving his opponents in the dust on his way to claiming the coveted piston cup, always makes me smile.
Having said that, what kind of speed should we prioritize in youth soccer? How should we train speed? Are we deciding if we want a player based on how fast he/she can run? Is the speed in our legs or in the ball?
Here in the States the desire for physical speed in a player is right at the top of the requirement list. We love the fast players-the ones that can kick a ball up the other end of the pitch and run past everyone on the field, including his own teammates, and score a goal. What about the ones that can rescue a team by staying back and using their speed to sweep up any mistakes that may have occurred?
This type of player is recruited the most in youth soccer. Categorized as elite before they’ve even reached the age of ten! The difference between if you’re a good team or a bad one. Ultimately, this hurts two types of players, the early developers and the late developers.
Both will ultimately be cast aside at some point in their journey. Why? Because little Jonny or Susie can no longer kick and rush the ball to score a goal. What about tiny Tim? Well, he was never nurtured at an early age because of his perceived lack of speed.
This has to change in the United States. We must alter our priorities, put aside our egos, and do what’s best for our kids. Let’s front load cognition from start to finish in our practices. Stop with the mindless unopposed line passing drills, they’re boring! And an injustice to our kids.
Let’s train speed of thought, quick decision making. Provide our players with an environment where they must perceive, conceive, deceive, decide, and execute. Let’s train intelligence and technical precision, not athleticism.
We cannot expect to develop the next Luka Modric, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Ozils, of the world if we keep prioritizing physical advantages at an early age. And all for what? A tournament win? The chance to get one over on another club? The need to win rather than develop at the foundational phase? Are you doing what’s best for you and your ego or the young player that looks up to you for guidance and support?
Lightning McQueen is right it is all about speed but which kind you train is up to you. Let’s move on from the past and rethink how we train our youth.
Either way the journey is long with many bumps in the road but the time for change is now.