Around the world, there is a lot of talk about reforming the coaching methods to bring the best out of the players. When you look at all of the coaching courses offered in most countries, you will see that most programs are focused on developing senior coaches. And why not? That’s where the money is for non-players! Most countries, federations, and clubs want to produce the next Messi or Ronaldo. However, they entrust the responsibility to volunteers or underpaid coaches.
The pyramid for coaching development runs downhill. If you don’t make it at the top you trickle down until you hit the grassroots level, which has little money. I have a stack of letters from coaches from all over the world, from some of the biggest clubs and federations, hoping that there is money in Asia for youth development. Nothing could be further from the truth! These are wonderful resumes filled with all the right stuff, including accreditation, years of experience, and letters of reference; one even signed by Sir Alex Ferguson.
So why are they coming to me? Youth coaches can’t make enough money in the UK or elsewhere plying their skills because they aren’t valued for developing players. Media, sponsors, and owners celebrate short-term achievement over long-term development. I was fortunate enough to be on Japan’s top children’s television show for 13 years, which along with my print appearances and football clinics across the country gave me the authority that most youth coaches can’t obtain. There are lots of coaches who are better at coaching kids than I am, but very few truly understand the football ecosystem and how it works.
Depending on the country, football development is either a hit or a miss. Street football, common in South America, is frequently mentioned in this regard. Recently, one of the top coaches in the world stated that China’s lack of development stems from a lack of street football in the country. Kids don’t play in the streets in either Japan or Korea, but both countries will participate in next year’s World Cup. Many coaches hold outdated concepts and beliefs when we should be changing to 21st century teaching and understanding.
Football coaching is linear where it should be more organic, meaning that programs are created based on local needs. But instead, everyone is trying to import the Spanish, Brazilian, Italian, or the French way of playing football.
The Japanese approach, in particular, is interesting. They try to learn as much as they can from all parts of the world, localizing and adapting it to fit their own needs. If you look at the history of the Japan Football Association (JFA) you will see influences from Germany, England, Holland, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, France, Korea, Croatia and Serbia. They didn’t try to replicate a country’s complete model for success but they were good at understanding what worked well and imported certain concepts and ideas for their own sake.
But what I find most amusing is that if you don’t get any of the above correct, but still manage to develop technically gifted players from a very young age, anything is possible in football. Brazil recently won the Confederations Cup by beating Spain 3-0. Barcelona and Spanish football have been dissected and placed under a microscope for analysis by everyone. But when you have a team such as Brazil, which is always technically solid, and marry that with strength and speed, they’re hard to beat, especially at home.
No one has the exact solution for developing great players and teams. But there is one thing for sure: without technically superior players it doesn’t matter what system, tactic or formation you play; they will always be dependent upon the individual qualities and characteristics of the players available. Current football methods are like dinosaurs in a digital era!
Tom Byer has taught his famed footballing techniques to millions of young players in Japan, China, and elsewhere in Asia via his football schools, regular clinics, TV appearances, and other media.Follow Tom Byer on
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