As headquarters of the English Football Association (FA), St. George’s Park oversees the development of all the 24 national English Football sides. Interesting to note is the abandonment of a one size fits all approach towards player development for a more flexible, dynamic and holistic approach. Confronted by such a situation, many youth football instructors at FA have or are changing tact. The gradual work focusing mostly on developing technical, intelligent and psychologically competent footballers has began bearing good fruit by the national under 17 side clinching the World Cup in October.
With the senior side poorly performing over the years, practitioners have advised the FA to rethink the way they educate football youths at their national center. This has seen efforts to save the country from such a long-standing situation of failures at both continental and global levels grow drastically. Consequently, that has led to a shift in approach towards a more proactive stance placing the young player at the pivot of development.
Basing on that, FA authorities officially launched a National Center of Excellence (NCE) in 2012, charged with oversight in educating the most talented and intelligent young footballers in the country. This was reflective of the drastic changes FA authorities were instituting at St, George’s Park.
The NCE that has witnessed unprecedented progress is now a center for developing and educating international coaches on best practice and the English way of instructing talented young football players.
Many coaches are travelling miles away from home in pursuit of excellence when it comes to youth development. The Annual Football Association International License also a pathway for studying advanced UEFA courses or those offered at respective regional and national associations is not only creating a good name for the NCE globally but also helping increase on the confidence levels of English people with assurance that talented youths are receiving the best football education.
This is having a bearing on the quality of homegrown players in England.
Additionally, the FA has been paying great attention to the education and development of its football-coaching instructors. Through the Advanced Youth Award (AYA), the equivalent of the UEFA A- License at youth level, academy coaches in England have aimed at educating, developing and producing high quality soccer players with balanced individualities (responsible citizens).
The added package of the FA Youth and UEFA B Licenses respectively make the AYA a unique course for elite youth coaches. With youth football education hinged around the four corners model of development, the FA is focusing on the kind of football sessions coaches deliver to their students similar to how it is interested in determining the extent to which the four-corner model (technical skills and intelligence, physical, social and psychological development ) of player development is impacting their coaching and instruction.
Similarly, FA leaders are vying for increased numbers and quality of coaches enrolling for the AYA, FA Youth and UEFA B Licenses to achieve their 2018 target. All these endeavors have been undertaken in efforts to produce better technical and intelligent homegrown players to come and represent the national senior side.
In efforts to maximize the number of touches on the ball, skills and decision – making of young soccer players, the English FA has since 2010 been striving to institute changes in regard to the size of pitches, goal posts and flexible competition for all developmental levels.
Such changes have been supported by the fact that game formats significantly influence the kind of technical soccer skills and insight developed in young players. Similarly, playing on smaller pitches leads to the development of diverse skills sets in comparison to the improvements youngsters make while playing on bigger sized football pitches. Consequently, that has resulted into well developed technical and insightful players over the course of time thus resulting into the clinching of the Under 17s World Cup this year.
Conclusively, creating a facility of St, George Park’s magnitude and quality plays a huge role in both coach and player development. Through a continued focus on changing game formats and competition structures, the FA is determined to see English players grow into better technical and tactical footballers. In fact, the strategy has began paying fruit through the triumph of the young lions over Spain in this year’s Under 17s World Cup. The trend is expected to continue through combined and consistent efforts from all English football stakeholders.