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The importance of play

If we are committed to the development of a player who is innovative, and creative then we have to understand the importance of ‘play’.
SPEAKER 1: If we are committed to the development of a player who is innovative, creative, and an exceptional decision, maker we have to understand the importance of play in the development of these traits. There has been much research around play, and if we view learning, development, and improvement as the construction of knowledge and understanding, then play for young players, particularly those in the foundation phase, has an integral part to play.
SPEAKER 2: I’m going to ask a little bit now about the Dutch DNA and the characteristics of Dutch football.
SPEAKER 3: We are an innovative people. So when we were looking at football many years ago, we were thinking about how can we try to bring in creativity into the game. And we were thinking that it is in the game. You don’t have to bring it in to the game. It is in the game. And this was also based on the research on Swedish soccer. Because in the older days, there was a lot of space to do your football on the streets. And they were very creative in what kind of game they did. So they used different objects as their goals, the way you can score. But also, the players, they just played. The kids just play it.
And so then at that moment, we thought, OK, then this must be more or less the basic form of football. So this was the birth of first four. And just by playing four versus four, you bring the idea of street soccer into the more official way of training and coaching. And I think that’s a cultural part that you’re always looking for, OK, how can we improve? What kind of step can we make? And we really have to do this because we are– when you relate it to our neighbours, Germany, France, and so on, we are a relative small country. So we don’t have this big lake with so many fishes.
Think about talented players we can put in our national team. So we have we have to be creative. So it’s about introducing this model of street soccer. But nowadays it’s about how you are speaking to the children. And it’s becoming more and more important that you understand what young children are doing these days and how you must approach them. And then you come to the effect of asking questions. But this is not a goal in itself. It’s always one of the things you can use to improve them. Because that’s the dangerous thing out of it, that we’re making a goal on itself on asking questions. So keep it into balance.
But we like to be innovative and look for new things and how we can introduce it into training and coaching.
SPEAKER 2: You’ve had some fantastic creative players throughout history– Bergkamp, Overmars, Cruyff, the list goes on, van Basten. Do you think these players have been nurtured, or do you think it was in their nature?
SPEAKER 3: Both. Both. Both.
Of course, it’s in their nature because these very talented players who are doing outstanding performances. That must be also nature, so some of the things you cannot learn them. But then the job of the coach is to recognise it and to give them the space and the possibilities to come to their potential, so to develop their potential. And with these players, Bergkamp, van Persie, that’s outstanding. So I think it’s both. But the coaches are very important in reinforcing these natural talents.
SPEAKER 2: I was going to ask that when we see a player do something different– so the first time we saw Cruyff to the turn– it was different than anything we’d seen before. And sometimes coaches get scared if they see things that different. What would be your take on when we see a child who sort of stands out from the ordinary.
SPEAKER 3: Yeah, that’s what I was saying about the attitude of the coach when he’s coming with new things. You have to be glad as a coach, and you have to reinforce. I think that’s the most important thing. Because of this safe learning environment, it allows to make mistakes and to reinforce the good things they are doing. And then they’re getting the self-confidence to do these things and hopefully at a level as Cruyff did some day. But at all levels, you should take out the potential of these players, whether we are talking about grassroots or are these very high skillful place.
And when they’re doing something unexpected, you must just say, OK, this was what the drill was about, doing something unexpected. And the only thing, you have to assess it– is it successful? And when it isn’t successful, you give him another chance.
“.. allows children to cope with not knowing something long enough in order to know – they can rehearse, practice, revise, replay and re-learn” Moyles (2005)
If we are committed to the development of a player who is innovative, creative and an exceptional decision maker, then we have to understand the importance of ‘play’ in the development of these traits.
There has been much research around play and if we view learning, development and improvement as the construction of knowledge and understanding, then play for young players, particularly those in the Foundation Phase (5-11) has an integral part to play.
In this video you will see a clip of Nico Romeijn talking about the importance of play and street football.
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Youth Football Coaching: Developing Creative Players

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