Q:Do you believe in fixed systems of play for youth players?
No. Fixed Systems for young players more often than not typecast players and psychologically inhibits/limits them to a narrow perspective........better that players at least experience the 'whole field' to develop an all round understanding of the different dynamics/vision required to play in those 'other' positions.
Q:At what age should players start to nail down a position?
A player should never be nailed down into one position. However, for practical reasons, if pressed to do so, I would say by 16 most kids will have an idea about what that position is, but, it can also change significantly depending on the style of play and their own physiological and psychological growth into adulthood.
And, because, I believe that there are only four 'special positions' on a field-not 11: A Goal Scorer; a Goalkeeper; a 360 degree player; and 180 degree player. Even at the professional level, players are molded into positions whenever necessary. Also, the concept of 'Total Football' which I believe in, means players should be interchangeable. Systems by definition are not conducive to creativity.
Q:How important is it for players to be able to make up their own mind where they want to play?
It's very Important to try and give young players plenty of latitude when looking at positional play.........what is their 'natural inclination' ?
Where do they function with the most effectiveness ? Even then, that prefered 'positional choice' can/will continue to shift based on experiential, physical and psychological growth.
Q:At what ages should players start to play on larger fields?
Since the best way to improve a player is to keep a session in tight spaces to promote quick thinking, high quality control, dribbling and passing, with fast intelligent decision making, a 3v3, up to 6v6 format provides everything young players need.
But for 11v11, I would say around 14 year of age. The trouble is, youth football has such huge physiological discrepancy that some of the kids at 14 look like 19 year olds and some look like 12 year olds.
Q:Do you think that players younger than, say, 10 years of age, should be punting the ball?
No. Certainly not punting the length of a field, or even past half way..........if it is kept as a volleyed pass to a team mate with purpose, I can accept that if the target is in their own half of the field.
Q:Would the same apply to long free kicks and corner kicks?
Maybe change the traditional corner kick at the younger ages to 'possession from the corner spot' with 10 yards of space to dribble in with the ball. Be creative.. Why do all the rules of the game have to be applied from the World Cup levels to the grass roots levels? And as far as Free Kicks go, I think at the younger ages, all free kicks would be better taken indirect.
Q:Conversely- should teams be looking to always play out of the back?
NO. Theres nothing wrong with throwing or playing a meaningful ball forwards 'with purpose'. Obviously Punting aimless balls for territorial gain is rubbish, and should be discouraged.
Q:There is a growing trend in youth football to 'force' players to play through the lines and not look to play it 'long' - How much flexibility do you allow players to decide for themselves and break the mold?
Ignoring the essential skill of the Long Ball, the Cross Field Ball, the Searching Ball into space, is a disservice to the kids........they need to be able to explore their horizons and picking out a searching pass that is timely, accurate and with purpose is a tremendous skill employed by the best in the game. When executed well, it is definitely a Skill of the highest degree.
Q:Do you think that leagues and cups and more games make better players?
No.Neither do labels, systems, or coaching badges. Learning how to use the ball the right way, starting at the younger ages, makes for better players......
Q;What are your thoughts on small sided game options?
I would say that small sided games are an absolute essential training component for young players. Too much time & space (big field) only slows down the thought process.
Q:what about 1 v 1?
Very very important! It encourages/requires quick wit, fast thought, tight control, attacking vision, defensive shape and constant repetition/competition. It's some of the hardest work you can ever perform in football training...........illuminates much of a players skill set in a small area.
Q:Why do you think clubs often select the athletes at the youngest age groups.
Q:Is an athlete at 8 going to be an athlete at 16?
Nature and/or serious hard work will decide this. But, No guarantees from 8 to 16, or 16 to 22.
Q: Its often seen that organizations throw away the old for the new. They seem to come and go but there isnt too much 'new' in football is there? In what way have all of these 'methods' and 'systems' changed football other than more structure and improved fitness. Has it helped create better, more creative footballers?
Besides the very top echelons of the game, where science & technology has added some benefits for the elite level Pro players, there is nothing new in football. The lexicon of football continues to add chic new phraseology pushed out by salaried directors of the game who are trying to justify their positions & the media frenzy for sensationalism don't help, but practically, you cannot say that there is anything in the game today that has changed the player/ball relationship. You still have to get out there, spend the time, and produce the goods.
Q: How can coaches or clubs encourage creativity?
It's environmental. If kids are passionate, then they will devise their own methods of improving themselves, but, the reality is, its not for everyone and thats the struggle- There are simply not enough kids in the game who do this. Players should be kicking the ball up against a wall, at the park on their own or with friends, juggling, dribbling a ball when they go to the store, go for a jog with a ball at your feet......
Q:What type of supplementary training/practice would you suggest players/coaches do?
If they want to be good, do what every good player in football history has had to do before us....Go out and introduce yourself to the ball, every day. Do all this, and then some.