The fight to continue playing sports during the pandemic at the youth level has been extremely difficult. COVID-19 has brought many challenges for coaches, management and players, with the biggest impact being player development. Immense changes have taken place in the world of football specifically for the younger footballers. Players are now asked to train on their own time. Notably social media is leading the way on how we interact with one another, from Zoom training calls, coaching assessments and team interactions. Staying in game ready shape often involves players logging into a computer program to access team exercises. As the world undergoes necessary social change, so to, goes the way of football.
With no other alternatives in sight and no imminent vaccine on the way, the question now becomes how will clubs keep player intensity and motivation high? Without hands-on consistent coaching, the bond young players develop when learning to trust their coach and teammates may not fully form with the depth we have come to expect in our best players. The comradery that solidifies only on the field with 11 on 11 football or the competitiveness that drives youth to be the best player possible in hopes of making the starting team may wane. Players are now forced to focus on developing their individual skills, to learn their strengths and to overcome weaknesses on their own. This is a major task to ask our youth since not only are we calling on them to act as professionals at a much earlier age and to develop their skills quicker; but we are essentially asking them to do this with less training and direction from coaches. This is bringing a whole new meaning to and reliance on self-development.
We do not know when the world will resume back to normal or even what that will look like; but it is imperative for those players who want to turn professional and play on the main stage to maintain their focus and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those who are up for the task will be tomorrows stars. The future of youth football is now will power over skill. Players who were less talented now have the opportunity to catch up and exert even more energy than their competition into training and developing the skills they require to make it to the next level. It is all a state of mind. The strong minded will survive and the rest will be left behind. Resilience is the name of the game and footballs new motto. Resilience! Tough times don’t last, tough people do.