DEVELOPING CREATIVE PLAYERS
For players under 14 years old
1. Declare war against the 11v11 game. The 11v11 game, should be replaced by another type of competition tailor-made for younger players. Games like mini-football (3v3 on four goals), 7v7 football, and 8v8 football (played between the regular pitch's penalty areas) offer the adequate frame (in terms of space, number of players, ball size and weight) for children to express their creativity and inspiration in a more healthy environment: an environment that does not contain the stress of the 11v11 game with its adult-oriented rules.
2. Use more games and fewer analytical exercises. Practicing should happen in a game context. Statements such as 'The game itself is the best teacher' must be rediscovered and considered in the planning of all training sessions where drills predominate. Children should be exposed to more game plays (global method) and less practice with the analytical method.
3. Let the kids play without correcting them permanently. When playing, it is not always necessary for young football players to know the specific learning objectives of a practice. The learning objectives are always important for the coach but not for the players. Players should frequently have the opportunity to just play, or play just for fun, without having any specific learning as a main objective. We should not forget that one essential part of the game is its unpredictability. This explains why the game is so fascinating for kids.
4. Children should have the chance to play in all positions and in reduced space. Young football players should have the opportunity to play in various positions in order to discover the roles and functions that these positions characterise. Experimenting with play in different positions stimulates creativity. For instance, 7- to 9-year old players could perform the many variations of the mini-football game (3v3 on four goals) instead of playing 7v7 football or 11v11; 10- and 11-year olds may participate in a 7v7 game instead of competing in the 11v11 match; and 12- to 14-years olds could play tournaments of 8v8 football instead of championships in 11v11. The problem of positional experimentation would be solved since a competition with fewer players, in a reduced space, stimulates creativity, while the full game, on a regular football pitch, only tires the young players physically and intellectually, limiting their creative play.
5. Only those who enjoy the game can be creative individuals. Each training session should include a great variety of games, not only football-specific ones. When children play, they should have fun and be excited by the game. If young players do not identify themselves with the game proposed by the coach, the creative capacity will remain dormant. The more the players enjoy the game and the ball, the more that playing stimulates the development of a creative way of interpreting football.
6. The football environment is an enemy of a young player's creativity. Most of our young talent grows in an atmosphere that is noticeably hostile toward creativity. On most football fields young players are dominated by instructors, who allow relatively little freedom of movement and decision making: The opinions of young players are not taken into account. For the coach it is important to have everything under control, and, in the case of a player departing from the norms, the player is punished and called on to respect the coach's orders. Many coaches think for their players instead of stimulating them to think by themselves. Over the years, young football players are left in no doubt about the coach's instructions and play according to the information received but without putting in their proper thoughts and personal flair.When these young players reach the age of 15 or so, it is obvious that they will face serious problems if they are requested to make their own decisions, since, for many years, they have been trained to execute only what adults have told them.
7. More freedom during the play. When practicing or competing, coaches should not always punish the mistakes of their players, since this will restrict the players from taking risks and prevent their creativity, fantasy and imagination from flowing.
In the training sessions more space or time should be allowed for players to experiment with new moves that occur to them spontaneously. A more informal environment - as seen when football is played on the street, the beach or in a park - helps to develop more creative players.
8. Dare to risk and improvise without fearing the consequences. Young players should not be pressured by their coach to quickly pass the ball in order to allow better team play and winning. Young players who treat the ball as their best friend and often do their own thing are frequently more creative than those who accept what the coach demands. They should be allowed to improvise their play and take risks without fearing the possible consequences of having committed a mistake or to have lost possession of the ball. That is why young players should practice and play as often as possible without the presence of coaches (in the street or in the park). A coach's absence allows the players to feel more comfortable, to explore their innate potential without the fear of getting criticised when committing mistakes.
'' ONLY THOSE WHO ATTEMPT WHAT THEY CANNOT DO, WILL GROW.'' - Ralph Waldo Emerson