DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY MODEL
BY COACH BRADY
Why do we use the “Development Academy” training model?
The full-sided contests are the proving grounds for the technically developed player. They take their bag of tools onto the pitch and discover how the tools help execute movement between teammates on a large scale, and in the course thereof, begin to understand tactics. It is at that moment the question of 'Why do we spend so much time in practice perfecting our passing and trapping?' is answered. Now separate bodies have become one as they coordinate movement between them. Gradually, on the pitch, the team eventually becomes of one mind. When this happens the players now own the game. There is nothing as rewarding to a soccer fan than to watch young masters paint on the canvas of the pitch, and there is nothing in sport as enjoyable as being one of the artists. As purists, we generally do not recognize modern art as having beauty or value; throwing paint randomly at a canvas may on occasion produce interesting colors but in the end it is still random and can never be duplicated and is only beautiful when you turn your head sideways and suspend honesty. The same is true for soccer, the random kicking forward of a ball is not art, nor skillful, and if we are honest, not entertaining. If you put 11 skilled artists to work on a canvas, they will learn from each other; their skills will improve together exponentially; the product will be beautiful. Not so if you have six artists working on a mural while five others are throwing paint at it. The product will resemble soccer in that a round ball is used and there appears to be some consensus on the objective.
What this means for HSC as a practical matter is the high standards we seek as a club can only be reached by challenging the best with the best, iron sharpens iron. Having a unit of technically developed players allows a coach to expand the complexity of the training, which improves the individual and the team. Less time is spent on basic ball control and more time on complex ball movement, scoring and the psychology of the sport. Those who are not yet technically developed must work on the tools that will allow them to become competent, accomplished, and ultimately elite. They will have clear and objective goals as they train. They will take pride in their improvement as they work toward wearing the shirt of the first team. High standards will make our club better and the competition toward goals will make our sons and daughters better soccer players.
Developmental programs work on those tools in training by repeating essential fundamental skills and playing small-sided games. The primary objective is to get touches on the ball using all parts of the foot and body under varying circumstances. It is the equivalent of a piano player practicing the scales over and over until the motor pathways are burned into subconscious. Successful players also work on those skills at home on their own time. The experts say that the standard number of practice hours for elite competence is 10,000. If a player attends only practices and games for both the fall and spring seasons, they might get 75 hours of soccer time. That is not enough time to become even mildly proficient. Taking advantage of our club’s additional offerings including summer pickup soccer sessions, Chicago Fire Soccer Camp, winter futsal training, 3v3 futsal tournaments and seeking out other tournament opportunities is important, as is encouraging the use of a small skills ball in the house. An interesting bonus to this type of training is a noticeable reduction in injury. It is my firm belief that players with light, quick feet developed in training greatly reduce their chance of injury. We cannot prevent reckless challenges by opponents but we can reduce the likelihood of injury by how we react. Experienced players keep their heads up so that they can see the challenge and avoid having contact with the ground at impact. I call it the Barry Sanders effect; he was small but light on his feet and had few major injuries in a sport designed for injury. Lionel Messi is another good example of this in effect in our sport. Injury is as much, if not more, from the resistance to the force than the force itself. Those with quick feet and skill learn to avoid contact injury.