An important part of youth development is developing the entire person — not just the soccer player. We expect young people to go onto the field of play and make smart, correct decisions by themselves — so it is vital that we begin to develop these qualities early in their development.
When I talk to academy coaches across Europe or professional scouts they place a large emphasis on the psychological attributes of young players when evaluating potential. Is the player self-motivated, taking responsibility for their own development, has a strong mentality to overcome set-backs and do they have a strong capacity to learn?
The best players in the world have dedicated their life to a constant process of self-improvement. As they have amassed training hours and game -time they have had to navigate through challenges such as injuries, growth spurts, loss of form, criticism, self-doubt and external pressures from family and friends.
As Professor Damian Hughes pointed out in his excellent book “ The Barcelona Way - How to create a High Performance Culture” star athletes and elite performers continuously monitor their own progress and routinely exercise a process of self evaluation.
If the teams that young players play on do not have a similar feedback system in place, then there is no reason why young players cannot implement their own version of a player book to track performance progress. This kind of performance feedback is critical for elite athletes. They must understand their current performance levels, and must be seeking improvements on a daily basis (during training and games). This will help them understand their own strengths and areas of improvements.