With complete freedom to redesign talent development, what would you do? Take out a blank piece of paper, clear your mind and give it a go.
This is actually what I did. I bought a journal and rid myself of the politics and powers that be in football and focused only on maximizing the talent of a young player. I did not let myself edit out any ideas. Instead, I let them flow freely onto the page – scribbling relentlessly without restraint.
Let me tell you it ended in a big mess and maze of notes and nonsense. Pages of marvelous incoherency. Numbers and names. Drawings and diagrams. But in that chaotic and cathartic process, ideas did indeed emerge. The delirium of divergent thinking slowly began to yield to the custom of convergence. This was my new point of departure after years of teaching, coaching and coordinating talent programs. I knew then that there would be no turning back. My new world was no longer flat and I needed to embrace the orb of innovation.
When you start from the perspective of the learner things change.
Much of football coaching has been developed from the coach-centric perspective. That reality affords us an opportunity. It allows us to rethink the way we approach the challenge. It is not a coincidence that many schools are modernizing their approach to learning systems. Blended learning, flipped classrooms, and project-based learning have all emerged from this same opportunity to rethink the role of the educator. As coaches, we must examine the learning process and tap into its remarkable power.
So, what happens when we focus on the latest research on talent development, on skill acquisition, on mindset, on effective teaching? What would coaching become and what would our new curriculum look like? That was my departure point. It was not exactly a tabula rasa, but it was certainly a tabula with great freedom to start anew conceptually and then build from there.
The TOVO Fundamentals
What would change if we engaged the best practices from education, music, art and other fields and applied them to our football training? We would not replicate the traditional training tenets. They would not serve us well today. We would build sessions that were cognitively faithful to the demands of playing the game. We would make trainings dynamic, player-centered, and fully engaging.
Thus emerged our own TOVO Training mandate.
1. Training will be fun.
2. Training will be age appropriate.
3. Training will consist of learner-centered activities.
4. Training will develop individuals within the team context.
5. Training will encourage taking risks and honor failure as a step to success.
6. Training will nurture cognitive development as well as technical execution.
Instead of dissecting the game into unrecognizable parts, we built from the whole. Instead of creating thousands of complex exercises we utilize a base of 30 exercises from rondos to position play exercises to purposeful training games. Players no longer need to waste valuable time understanding the rules of a drill and waste their entire bandwidth extrapolating an obscure relevance to the weekend match.
We developed a logical progression of exercises that directly construct the conditions under which a player will need to perform. This learner-based program uses pattern recognition and geometric forms to simplify the complexity of the game. In the end, a footballer must have the capability and the confidence to play the game intelligently.
Each exercise within our training portfolio is designed to help players find solutions to the challenges presented by their opponents. Our players love the dynamic, engaging and competitive nature of our training sessions. As coaches, we know that while they are having fun they are unconsciously training their brains and bodies to work in harmony.
In the end, we share the same agenda – to develop talented, intelligent and responsible players. On that I believe all coaches agree. If given the liberty to do so, how many of us would create the exact system in which we train our youth today? I imagine not many. From this day forward we can approach coaching with the purest motive – to maximize talent. Young athletes will amaze us when we tap the deeper reserve of talent within them.
I took out a blank piece of paper and TOVO Training emerged. Perhaps you have a spare pad of paper and a pencil just waiting for you.
It all starts with inquiry.