In the last week, I saw an advertisement for an AAU Tournament on the weekend on March 12-13 in southern California, which would be the weekend before the high school season concludes with the state championship games. I also saw an advertisement for a showcase event on August 11 in which the trainer/showcase host said that all the players who think they are top players need to be at her showcase.
If tournaments that act as qualifiers for big summer exposure tournaments begin before the high school season ends, and players are supposed to go to exposure events after the July exposure period finishes, when is the off-season?
U.S. Soccer faces the same issues. However, U.S. Soccer recently hired April Heinrichs as its Women’s Technical Director, and part of her role is to deal with these issues.
“There is a list of things that come to mind. We are focusing on winning at all costs, thinking about winning too early in players’ careers, to the detriment of players and their love and passion for the game. It hurts their technical development and their psychological development. Also, too many parents are touting their child as the next Mia Hamm. We know in child development, early identification can be good and bad for psychological development. To feel like you’ve arrived at age 14 or 16 can often send a message whose by-product includes not getting expert feedback and not being self-aware of the need to keep improving.
“We have the games-to-training ratio backward. We need more training. Even at that, the training is often focused on the team, when at younger ages it should focus on the player. I don’t know the actual number, but we will be focusing on this, at what point should we focus on the player, until 14 or younger. Too many coaches are focusing on the team concept. Players need to get more touches on the ball and parents need to be less worried about passing. Some of the the things you hear yelled most often at games are “pass it” and “kick it.” People are focused on winning and comparing. These are all dangerous things. We’ve created a culture where youth players are feeling a tremendous pressure to win. We have to reverse that.”
The NBA and NCAA partnered together and invested $10-million to start a web site with its stated mission to “clean up” the grassroots game. However, nothing from ihoops seems focused on these issues of games:training ratio, the Peak by Friday mentality, the premature peak in development, the lack of individual skill repetitions and more. There is a void in leadership and ihoops has proven not to be the answer.
Coaches and parents need more education on the talent development process. We need to look beyond the experience of a professional player gifted with 6’10 height and a high-percentage of fast-twitch muscle fiber and use and engage in more sports science research to determine the best pathways for player development from athletic, social, emotional, physiological and psychological perspectives.
Players currently compete more in adult-initiated sports, structured practices and organized games than ever, but the overall skill level is not improving in proportion to the increased time investment. Why persist in an environment that requires more time and commitment with less results? What happened to the old coach’s adage: Train Smarter not Harder? Parents, coaches and researchers need to examine the current practices and decide on avenues for smarter training, not just harder training.
I saw this on Casey Wheel’s blog, and it relates to the Peak by Friday and harder, harder, harder mentality in personal training: