“If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance.”
~ Ken Robinson ~
A brief note on youth football development:
In comparing New Zealand with 1st rate footballing nations (Brazil, Spain, Germany, Holland, England, Iceland, etc…) the average Kiwi does not spend nearly close to the amount of time playing football in structured or unstructured environments between the age of 5 and 10 years. Therefore, upon entering the academy setting at the ages of 9, 10, 11 and 12 players are often technically inefficient in regards to footballing actions, i.e. dribbling, passing, striking, first touch, etc...
Although much of the training in the academy aims to address the technical attributes of each individual player (passing, dribbling, first touch, etc...) most trainings and practices centre around the teaching of game understanding and complex decision making. In order to train such things (decision making and game understanding), which require higher levels of cognitive thought, players must first and foremost be technically proficient (good passers, good dribblers, etc…). If players are not technically proficient, the trainer must devote more time to developing the technical side of the player (which can often be done out side of the academy alone); therefore, compromising valuable time spent focusing on game understanding and complex decision making (within a group of players; team) - key attributes that the modern 21st century footballer must begin developing as early as possible.
The best way for a young player to improve his or her technical proficiency is to spend more time at home - outside of the structured training environment - playing football. Young players with ambitions of playing the game at the highest levels should be spending time with the ball nearly every day outside of training by themselves or group of peers.
Having said that, the school holidays are a great time for players to improve technical proficiency. Instead of taking a break from football, please encourage your player to spend more time with the football “making it their best friend.” Most importantly, players should enjoy spending time with the football, as enjoyment is arguably the most critical component when it comes to a player's longevity in the game and the continued desire to learn, develop and grow.