Monday, May 28, 2012

When do we start specializing positions?

Determining the age of when to start slotting players in fixed positions is a never ending debate for every sport. 

Slowly, we are moving our team towards 1, 2 or 3 possible positions for each player.  We will always tinker and experiment, but there will be an underlying consistency to our line-up.

So when is a good time to specialize young players in certain positions?  We have players who have had tremendous success in certain positions but are reluctant to try other spots. 

How about when a parent is trying to interfere with where you are paying their child?  I say “try” because if a parent is influencing your line-up, your team needs another coach.

I like to try players in different spots to see if we can determine the best spot for them.   But I try to ease those changes in while keeping the rest of the line-up stable. 

Here are my thoughts.  If you have players who can succeed in more than one position:
  • They develop a more complete set of skills, mentally, tactically and technically.
  • It gives you more flexibility in putting other players on the field.
  • You have more options tactically, for different situations.
  • You prepare them to win spots in other programs, away from your team (school, academy, college, etc).
There are things you need to consider.
  • If a player is trying a new position with limited (but increasing) success, you can move them back and forth so they continue to experience success.
  • If a player is failing at a position that you thought would work for them, you should consider the possibility that you were wrong.  Let them go back for a while, then try somewhere else when you feel they are ready.
  • Make sure you put each player’s needs before the entire teams.  When all of your players are confident and succeeding, the team’s needs will be met.
  • All players deserve the opportunity to periodically play a full match. Sometimes players don’t “let it all out “ if they know they are your first choice to be replaced during games.
One last consideration is that each position has desirable physical characteristics for the players who play there.  As the players age and pass through puberty, their physical characteristics will also change.  The more technical work and situations they are exposed to as younger players, the better prepared they will be for the challenges their future coaches hand to them.

We will see how things develop with each boy as the season moves forward.  It’s a challenge for youth coaches to not get caught up in the score and situation, forgetting to serve their players.

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