The FIFA World Cup 2018 is over and France have been crowned World Champions. Football Associations across the globe will now conduct the usual post-tournament dissection of the Champion’s success. What are they doing better than us? No doubt, someone somewhere will infer that the lack of quality players being produced in Scotland is related to our facilities.
On our quest to produce better quality football players, conventional wisdom has dictated that we invest in football facilities – there are now more 3G / 4G synthetic pitches everywhere, and incredible indoor spaces such as ORIAM, Toryglen and Aberdeen Sports Village.
In Scotland, football clubs participating in the Club Academy Scotland / Project Brave programme are required to have access to 4G synthetic pitches. In the top section, clubs are required to have access to indoor pitches. I believe this is important, but it should not be a pillar of a club’s development strategy.
Why are we trying to make our young footballers as comfortable as possible? We have to question the logic behind this. NOTHING about elite performance is comfortable. MVP Track & Field Club (Usain Bolt’s athletics club) produces more Olympic medallists than any other club yet trains on a poor quality, diesel-stained track at the University of Kingston. In “The Gold Mine Effect“, Rasmus Ankersen gives countless other examples of elite athletes who have succeed – in part – because they have NOT had access to the best facilities (PS – we are reviewing that book in our Book Club next month). Success is born from an athlete’s mindset, not how shiny their training facilities are.
Being uncomfortable – put outside your comfort zone – is a necessary training environment to improve.
We are pampering our young players by giving them the best equipment, kit and playing surfaces. When they turn 17-18 we farm them out on loan to lower league or junior clubs to gain experience of the “real game” then wonder why they are not setting the world alight playing on a poor grass surfaces.
As coaches – and therefore educators of young people – should we not be exposing them to a range of facilities? In a safe environment, should we not be putting them in situations where they are uncomfortable so they can develop the tools to succeed?
Playing indoors at ORIAM is nice but a well rounded experience would involve playing on bumpy, poorly cut public grass pitches, too.
We are luring our young footballers into a false sense of what it takes to become an elite athlete. Hopefully the day will not come where all football matches are played on synthetic playing surfaces. Until that day comes, let’s mix it up to give our talented young athletes the best chance of long-term success.
Question: What are YOU doing to expose your players / athletes to different training environments?