I have had the opportunity to visit many football clubs over the years. Upon arrival, it does not take long to determine what type of club I am visiting.
Type 1. Image Center
Type 2. Learning Center
Some clubs pay great attention to appearances. These types of clubs celebrate numbers - the number of players, the numbers of wins, and the number of trophies. They almost always have awesome uniforms and plenty of colorful equipment. More than anything, talk at the club revolves around team performance.
An image center may post appealing phrases on their website about “player development” and “values” but when push comes to shove (i.e. the weekend match) those ideals remain isolated in digital cyberspace and fail to reach the hearts of the parents and players. They are words on the page rather than actions on the pitch.
When you ask these clubs about methodology the conversation leads back to the trophy room or to an exhaustive excuse as to why they have no particular curriculum at all. In fact, there are several powerful image clubs that just hire coaches and let them do what they want, how they want. “To each his own” is the true motto. Just win, keep the parents content and we will see you next season.
The good news is that there are soccer clubs that approach talent development as an opportunity to maximize the potential of each player.
Take a moment and walk into a Montessori School. I am not suggesting that you are in agreement with the Montessori methodology, but what you will find is that the children, teachers and parents commit to the philosophy. Teachers do not deliver their own rogue program. Educators are not attracted to these schools because they are more prestigious or pay more. They are drawn by a vision and the governing approach to developing children. If you fancy the methodology, sign up. If you do not, please seek another option. It is clear and it is honest and respectful of our right to choose the best program for our children.
In football clubs, you may be hard pressed to find a program so well defined. Just ask. Ask your coaches privately what the methodology of the club is and have them explain it to you. Then ask another coach. Ask the Technical Director. Ask the Board President. You will be wonderfully inspired or remarkably disappointed.
Clubs that view themselves as learning centers put talent development at the forefront of their agenda. They talk about it. They wrestle with it. They engage the players, the parents, and the staff in the process. They communicate it clearly because they are proud to do so. They choose a methodology and they train their coaches to implement it. Coaches collaborate because they love discussing ways in which they can facilitate a more productive education.
The irony is that you do not have to be a rich club to do this. You do not have to win every tournament to be considered successful. I would suggest that learner centric clubs are the most successful because they win for the right reasons and in the right domain – talent development.
May I suggest that we throw away every excuse?
Let’s make our club a cause. Let’s rally its citizens and decide how we will better educate our youth.
For the children that we coach, I hope that more of us can say that we are part of a remarkable learning center committed to a fruitful training methodology. We will certainly not all choose the same training program, but we will be defined by our choice. And our children will be defined by our ability to support their total development.