We are in full preparation of the football season, a handful of games have been played already, the games against Tasman were very useful for our U13-U17. Those games contribute to our goal of playing more meaningful games during the year to offer better opportunities for players to develop, for that reason we are establishing multiple contacts over the country and together with Joe Cole and Slava Meyn I will visit Sydney FC soon for that same purpose.
A couple of tournaments are coming up for the older age groups. The U15 will play in Christchurch at the end of March and in that regard it is also good to mention that our U17 are about to go to Auckland halfway through March to play in the Western Springs tournament.
In order to play well in meaningful games and trainings we still have a lot of work to do in our academy. We need to make sure that every player in our program is able to follow as many trainings and games as possible. It is because of that reason we started to look closely at the load that is being put on players. This week the U14-U17 started with Smartabase , an app that allows our coaches to get daily information to make sure we are able to manage the load of our players. The work we have to do during the year to develop faster is connected to this information.
During term 1 we have been looking at all the players that are currently part of the academy. A meaningful environment to develop as a player is connected to a certain amount of success which can be achieved during the activities we offer. That connection between environment and success is called the Zone of Proximal Development, which is a learning zone where we would like to challenge players and have them succeed and fail in order to learn. Since the football structure is based on grouping players by date of birth, some players will not be in the Zone of Proximal Development enough to boost the development. That could be because a player has too much success and becomes too comfortable in his age group, but also there could be reasons why players don’t experience enough success in their age group.
To increase the pace of learning and offer opportunity to all players concerned several players have been training and playing in older and younger age groups over term 1 already. For me it is good to see that every player in the academy is taken into account and being offered the opportunity to develop.
Our coaches have been working hard the last couple of months to increase their expertise. Several coaches in our younger age groups have attended the Junior Level 1 and Junior Level 2 course. Jude Fitzpatrick has been to Auckland in order to work on his C-license. Besides the courses Blaine McKenna has shared his knowledge about building a performance script for players that will help them to get into the performance zone more often. The tools Blaine offered have been very valuable and the players are being offered continuous help in order to use it in trainings and games.
The next couple of weeks will be interesting since the Winter teams will be slowly starting up. Because of that also the teams in the U9 to U12 will start to shape. The upcoming month will clarify a lot in that matter!