As a player, or coach, we see areas for development in all players games. The talented striker might think they need to improve their first touch, whereas the coach may think the strikers heading may need to improve most. Football is all about opinions, but one of the key things in developing young players is noticing what areas they will benefit from the most.
It's quite common to look at a player, or yourself, and think that your weaknesses need developing the most. We tend to look at ourselves more negatively at times, rather than appreciating what we are good at. We have found that developing strengths in players are overlooked quite regularly. Can the young player who is a great dribbler improve that specific technical skill, or movement, to raise their game to an even higher level?
We've noticed that there are some top players out there who have a specific strength that they look to improve continuously. At times we think they use this technique, or strength, too often, making their play predictable. However, because they are so good at it, even the very best professionals can't take the ball off them. One of these players is Phillipe Coutinho at Barcelona. Countless times I have seen him drop his shoulder and cut inside of the full back, opening his body up and curling the ball into the far corner from distance. You would think that players should be able to stop this, but because he is so good at this technique, he is nearly unstoppable! From a young age Coutinho has realised this skill brings a lot of success for him, allowing him to score many goals a year. Developing this technique has allowed him to reach, and effect games at, the elite level. Someone from a few years ago that also developed their strengths greatly is David Beckham. Would David Beckham have been such a good crosser and dead ball specialist if he focused on his dribbling? Beckham's dribbling wasn't the greatest, he didn't have the pace or change of direction to consistently beat the full back, like his opposite winger, Ryan Giggs, was able to do. Beckham was clever, he realised he was never going to be an elite dribbler, like Giggs, and instead practised and practised to become the best crosser and dead ball specialist. I still haven't seen a player who can match Beckham's consistency in crossing and free kicks, to such a high level.
Focusing on these strengths can really help take the players game to the next level. We want to make sure that players become rounded and capable in all areas of the game, but we don't want to always point out weakness. If we are reminding players of their weakness in certain areas of the game it can cause confidence issues that might affect their performances. We have found, through our coaching at OpportunityElite, that working on developing strengths can really take players games to the next level. We aren't saying that the players strength needs to become better, we can practise it enough so players can perform that technique, whenever they want, at whatever time of the game. Great players are consistent, can these talented players perform their strength to such a consistent level that causes real panic in the oppositions performance?
We've also found that working on strengths build the confidence in players overall game, which in the long run allows the so called weaknesses to improve.
Work first on the strengths with consistent practise, then the weaknesses will develop. One great tool that we use to help develop the striking technique of players is the trainer below. Practise the strengths first, then the weakness will improve once the player has built the confidence in their game.
If, for instance, a player wants to improve both feet then work on making the stronger foot reach as high a technical level as we can. This will allow the player to realise what they need to do on the ball, how they need to move it, manipulate it, balance and co-ordinate their touches. If we can do this on our stronger foot, it then becomes easier to do it on your weaker foot as you know exactly how to do it, just on the stronger side of your body. Players need to get a feel for success, which allows them to realise what they need to do, leading them to self coach and develop greatly over a longer period of time.
Practise makes permanent, developing strengths can give players the confidence and enthusiasm to train more. If we get more success at something, it is more likely that we will want to keep doing it. Practise the strengths, help the player, or yourself, reach the next level of their game. The improvement in weaknesses will then follow.