Player Development Pathway
A great deal of voluntary effort has been expended, over many decades, for the development of football in Ireland. This dedication and selflessness has helped to produce many outstanding players at amateur, professional and international levels. It has also ensured that a wide network of clubs, schools and leagues have been built up providing many opportunities for all ages to play the game. However, taking into account the speed of change within the European and World game and the recent successes of so-called less developed football nations at club and international level it is clear that a coherent, structured, and player-centred development pathway needs to be put in place for the Irish game.. At present, from grassroots through to Elite Youth, National League and International Football, there is NO DEFINABLE pathway guiding players to a level of football which will fulfil their potential, and retain them in the game for life. Regional differences merely highlight the lack of consistent, measurable, and democratic opportunities for players to develop to their maximum. Players at all levels and ages need opportunities to fulfil their potential, and enjoy the game as much as possible.At present Irish players, compared to their European counterparts, are not afforded sufficient opportunities to attain a level of preparation, training, competition and required lifestyle which will challenge enthuse and motivate them to further improvement and career advancement. The pace of modern day life in Ireland has increased dramatically in the last 10 years and because of this more emphasis needs to be placed on the mental, personal and lifestyle elements of a player’s development. From a football perspective, more attention needs to be paid to the technical, tactical and physical development of players. Younger players need to be provided with the opportunity to develop their skills and decision making in both practice and competition situations. Specific game formats should be adopted for the different age groups and the right balance between practice and competition achieved.The age and gender profile of some leagues is unbalanced and overtly competitive at too early a stage in a player’s development.The structures for the development of players with special needs must also be developed. Research has shown that the long-term development of players is a process that can take ten years or more and the programmes and structures of the FAI must recognise the requirements and phases of this process.
In the recently published consultation paper “Building Pathways in Irish Sport” the National Coaching and Training Centre stated:
“Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight to twelve years of training for a player/athlete to reach elite levels. This is called the ten year rule or 10,000 hour rule, which translates to slightly more than three hours practice daily for ten years. Unfortunately, parents and coaches in many sports still approach training with an attitude best characterised as ‘peaking by Friday’, where a short term approach is taken to training and performance with an over emphasis on immediate results. We now know that a long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports.
A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout a Player/athlete’s career. Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in the short term. There is no shortcut to success in athletic preparation. Rushing competition will always result in shortcomings in physical, technical, tactical, mental, personal and lifestyle capacities”.