Factors that predict future success of talented footballers
By The Soccer Club of East Africa (SCEA) | Mon 09 Oct, 2017 17:49
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It is never business as usual developing talented young players through all stages for them to realize their full potential. It is an uphill task predicting future successes and not only requires patience and commitment but also the right attitude from all stakeholders. Several aspects are crucial in the superior performance of elite soccer youths in adulthood.

Therefore, their development follows finding an appropriate soccer program or school, excellent instructors, exposure and opportunity (socio- spatial dimemsions) in addition to creating the right environment for all. However, future success hinges on their tactical game comprehension (positioning and deciding), social and psychological support in addition to excellent and multiple psychomotor and behavioral skills.

10,000 hours threshold

Though the 10,000 hours threshold of practice and learning in addition to other factors are vital for their development, youngsters need to join soccer programs or academies at the age of 11 years plus. This is after they have honed good bilateral movement skills through early experimentation and participation in multiple sports. These multi-lateral movement skills (psycho- motor attributes) are not only the building blocks for soccer and sport specific skills but also enable appropriate neurological development (Psycho- behavioral skills). A talented soccer player with excellent scores in core motor functions while combining them with excellent soccer intelligence (positioning and deciding) and know how is likely to perform well in adulthood (Kannekens, Gemser and Visscher, 2011).

 Recent studies suggest that the acquisition of multi- lateral motor skills aid in the improvement of neuro-cognitive functions of young soccer players. According to Verburgh,Scherder, Lange and Oosterlaan (2016), talent identification and development should focus on players who have learned movement skills implicitly rather than explicitly through experimentation with various sports without instruction. The coordination of superior neuro-cognitive abilities with good motor functions through procedures that connect information and movement will facilitate the prediction of success in elite soccer players (Olivares, Vicedo, Villora and Costa 2016). Similarly, this notion makes sense in distinguishing adult elite from non-elite soccer youths when it comes to comprehending complex visual cues in non-sport specific encounters.

Process information

In addition to the points above, elite youths with well-coordinated motor - cognitive functions will grow into good decision makers. Consequently, they can process information and catch visual cues faster thus have an edge over peers and opponents with less developed attributes (motor- cognitive skills). As matter of fact, they will be in the right position at an appropriate time. Therefore, coaching should endeavor to stimulate further the aspects of tactical game comprehension (deciding and positioning) among elite youths to maximize full potential and facilitate their pathway to superior adult performances ( Kannekens et al  2011).

Young talented soccer players exhibiting appropriate mental and psychological strength are most likely to go through all stages of development until they reach their peak. Contrastingly, this may not be the case for the less talented with inadequate mental and psychological strength. Therefore, coaching staff need to stimulate attributes like self-confidence by setting challenging and realistic goals for the youngsters, self-motivation, discipline –respect,  commitment, focus, good work ethics and desire, to help elites realize their potential. Support and enhanced development of such kinds of psych- attributes enable elite youths deal with various emotions and socially oriented fears that could negatively affect their performance in adulthood (Methven nd).

Socio-spatial factors

Another strong consideration often overlooked is socio- spatial factors. They are crucial in the development of elite soccer youths. For example, the birthplaces in which these young athletes began learning their trade (exposure and opportunity) and high mobility rates to their training and competition locations will highly affect performance in adulthood. Quality and experienced coaching staff helps youngsters adapt to such conditions during their time in development since they profoundly influence their pathway to full potential. Coaching should help talented elites in forging friendly social ties with their peers, parents, teachers, soccer instructors, significant others and the wider community such that they are able to deal with any pressures which may arise on their ascendency to first team status. Those elites excelling at this are most likely to make the necessary cut into a professional soccer team (Olivares et al 2016).

Lastly, biological and physiological factors play a critical role in developing talent with potential. Though not guaranteed, sprint performance, endurance and relative age effect can show and distinguish elite from non-elite performers. However, the consideration of psychological aspects could be more beneficial in the assessment of future success among young elite soccer players. This is because future adult performances are highly correlated with strong psychosocial aspects rather than better qualified anthropometric qualities in the early years of development. Nonetheless, biological, physical and physiological factors are key performance issues at competitive levels.

High predictability

In conclusion, there is high predictability of success among elite soccer players combining psych- bio and physio factors with a superior tactical soccer sense at various phases of their development. Additionally, socio- spatial dimensions, acquisition of multiple motor skills and practicing for 10, 000-hours in 10 years will determine future star players. Other factors like quality and experienced coaching, psychosocial and mental support will remain crucial in helping young soccer elites achieve their football dreams.

The Soccer Club of East Africa (SCEA)
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