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In recent months I've had 6 players from our U16 team train and play with my U17 team at different stages. Last Friday was our first game in some time without using any of them and the quality was very poor. To highlight the difference, the previous week we played a team from the division above, a top 3 team in the country and dominated the game using 3 of the younger players.
It's at the stage now where these younger players need to be challeneged more frequently by playing against better players and a higher level.
However the flip side of this is the effect on some players within the current U17 squad. It hasn't been a case of some players not getting a chance as playing time has been very fair across all the squad (we record this). It's not just that the younger players have better technical qualities, it's the work rate, attitude to learning, coachability etc.
I've followed a young player Fosu-Mensah this season at MUFC, starting the season in the U18, then 21s and now tranining with the first team. Clearly this will be at the expense of other players.
I'm curious how others have managed similar scenarios and how to overcome the issue of the U17 players that could suffer as a result. How do I account for late-bloomers from the 17s without denying the 16s their deserved chance?
GR8 post Gary; this has happened at our school this hockey season, as the Head of Hockey decided to move the U16's almost en masse into the Seniors 1st Team. I was/am not in favour of such a wholesale import, but c'est le vie. IMHO several u17/u18 players have been demoted/demotivated as a result, and this decision possibly will have soured their school hockey experience as that comes to an end this year for the current u18's. Whilst I can see the logic of potentially having 3 seasons with these early promoted players, I cannot but question the impact on those being summarily demoted as a result. I am trying to make the season as meaningful/memorable for the demoted players as possible by working on their mental toughness alongside upskilling their technical abilities.
I look forward to hearing other coaches thoughts.
Great post and great reply from Lawrie too!
It may be a communication issue - it is important for all to understand why players are being promoted and picked ahead of others (even those left back in U16 team). My own view is that it is important for players to step up into the next level, and should act as a motivation for those already there to raise their game.
Whilst it might sour their experience within a school sport environment, within a club set up, there should be a flow between age groups at the older end.
It could be useful to find out how all the players are feeling, and could be some work around developing and changing mindsets?
A really interesting post and two good responses for far. My thoughts on this are that the promotion of younger players should be encouraged within club settings (as John suggests, the school setting is different in its make up). As well as promotion of players being promoted and accept, the playing of players in lower age groups (demotion for want of a better term - don't use this with the players) should also be an accepted process.
The environment within the club and the expectations of coaches, players, parents and other staff should be aim to be aligned to make this process easily accepted when it does occur during the season. To do this the benefits of 'promotion' and 'demotion' need to be clearly set out and explained to the players and parents (guardians/carers). These benefits may include, playing with a younger age group to increase confidence, increase game time, to match their state of maturation (late bloomers) to ease their return from injury or to work on their communication and leadership skills.
The impact of younger players playing 'up' on those currently in the squad can vary. In my experience some see it as a positive and embrace the younger player (often when they recognise their high level of ability for their age). Others challenge/test the younger player in training and potentially see this as a threat, due to reduced game time potential and risk of losing their place in the squad. In these instances it's the coaches communication to individuals in the group and to the group as a whole which will be key. This communication can help explain and give reasoning for the promotion of a younger player and reassure other players that it doesn't devalue their position in the group or club but it may mean some players having reduced game time or playing with a younger age group.
I've found players (more so than their parents) are accepting of the reasoning, even if they don't necessarily like it or agree. They do however value the honesty from me as the coach and generally look at playing 'down' as a challenge or opportunity to impress. When doing this I've always aimed to ensure that these players are clear in their mind why playing 'down' is beneficial to them (forget everyone else)....how will it make them better?...what areas of their game will it improve?...what challenges can you as a coach set them when playing 'down'?...how will they be integrated back into their normal age group (timeframe, playing time, reasoning etc)?
However the process is handled the players ultimately want to know how the situation will benefit them and if a coach can explain that playing 'up' or 'down' is of benefit to their long term development then the player is more like to buy into the idea.
Much appreciated on all the feedback!
Unfortunately the league (depsite the great reasons Gareth laid out) won't let players play down which does tie my hands somewhat.
However I am now training the 2 teams together as we look towards me taking on the U19/20 next year. I am hopeful this along with better communication will help.
This situation has definitely highlighed to me the difference between being merely a coach and that of a manager as I work with older players and their various personailities!
My club are also becoming more 'club' like whereas before it was a collection of individual teams. This is new for the players as well as coaches .
The process began last night with a very frank discussion with the player who was dropped for the last squad. I look forward to seeing how he responds.
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