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Football is a game played between two opposing teams, in which each team has a maximum of eleven on-field players at any given time. The game is played using a round ball that is kicked by the feet and should not be touched by hand except for the two opposing goalkeepers. Football is believed to have originated separately in different areas of the world over time. However, association football is believed to have evolved in Britain between the 18th and 19th century to what it is today. The aim of this paper is establish how coaching can be applied in football for purposes of talent identification and development.
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Talent Identification and excellence development in association football in England (Academic literature)
The main duty of Sport England is to develop a foundation for the community sport system. This is achieved by working together with various national governing bodies in charge of running the different sport activities in the country and interested partner organizations to increase the population of individuals involved in sport activities. It also helps to maintain the level of participation while ensuring that various talented individuals from diverse ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds excel in their sport. The above is achieved by scouting the individuals early, developing them and helping them achieve an elite status in the sport. The organization is a non-departmental public association that is under the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It works together with a total of 46 national governing bodies across the country ranging from rugby, lawn tennis, and athletics to darts. The organization is funded by the government, partner associations and private individuals to run its daily activities. Sport England distributes the funds provided to the national governing bodies to help in the development of the sport in the community. Funds are distributed according to the interests shown by the community towards the sport, the size of the association, expanse of the sport and the communal benefits of the chosen sport.
In England, the national governing body charged with the responsibility of running the football affairs is the Football Association (FA). It was formed in 1863 and is the oldest football association in the world. Its main objectives are the promotion and control of all forms of play of football at all levels across the country. This means that it controls the game from the primary school level to associations consisting of senior citizens. The association provides the rules of the game, controls all competitions and runs the affairs of the England national team. Any rules that are applied at any level of football in the country have to first be approved by the FA before they are applied. Consequently, all tournaments and competitions held at any level or locality in the country have to be approved by the FA (The FA.com, 2017).
Talent identification and excellence development is described as the growth of various sports activities and systems which actively seek to maximize demographic composition and characteristics of the people to come up with appropriate research into the growth and progression of athletes from identifying these talents and attributes at an early age or stage and providing appropriate pathways that the individual can use to grow. The process entails three distinct actions: selection, detection and transfer chronologically. Selection entails the hand picking of individuals from amongst their peers within the same sport. These have an above average level of skill and understanding of the sport. Detection entails the recruitment of athletes from one sport into a different sport. The selected individuals show physical attributes that may lead to high performance in the second sport. Transfer entails the recruitment of athletes from a game that is similar to the target sport. These steps help scouts and coaches easily identify and recruit talented individuals in to their sports and nurture them into skilled individuals who may be the best performers in the selected field. For young children, talent can easily be identified by observing them in an unstructured setting where each individual is allowed the freedom to test his abilities in each sport without the pressure of performance (Makhadmeh, 2015 p 28).
In the past, talent identification and nurturing of sports persons in England was left to chance and opportunity. An individual was only able to succeed in developing and nurturing his talent depending on where he lived and the people he associated with. If an individual was not lucky enough to discover his talent at an early age, the gift was soon forgotten and covered up by other more rigorous activities of life. This was not the individuals’ fault as they merely lacked proper guidance and opportunity to harness their talent and skill. It was therefore up to their social circle and the community to help bring up a successful personality with the hopes that a scout from an established football club would get wind of the individual to take interest and sign up the individual thus setting up his career as a professional footballer.
The FA has come up with various programs that are aimed at developing football at the grassroots level throughout the country. These vary from subsidizing football equipment so that they can easily and cheaply be obtained by the interested parties, provision of standard playing fields in each locality, promotion of awareness of the benefits of sports to an individual and the community; this helps to demystify the fact that sports does not pay hence enabling parents to allow their children to participate in the sport. In addition, the FA provides regular clinics for armature coaches where they are trained on the latest rules and development programmes. This enables the coaches build better qualified players. Additionally, the FA assists, financially, wherever and whenever it deems fit in order to grow the sport.
Football Talent Identification (TID) & Talent Development of Excellence programme (TDE)
The FA embarks on building future elite players by combining its resources with various football clubs. The association allows these clubs to create football academies where the talented kids are identified, nurtured and developed into elite sports personalities. The FA provides the rules of engagement between the football academies and the children hence seeks to protect the interests of the minors while developing the standards of the game and creating a revenue stream for the clubs. Football academies are areas established by the football clubs and associations under the guidance of the FA to help nurture football skills amongst children of various ages. The football academies have qualified staff members whose primary role is to help the children build their talent.
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In order for one to qualify to join such ranks, one has to undergo three rigorous and thorough screening processes. Phase one, the identification of talent stage, entails the screening of the interested individuals within the confines of their schools. This involves eight physical and physiological tests and the results are measured against a national database. If the report show a favorable correlation, the youngster progresses to the next phase. The ages of youngsters allowed to participate depends on the needs of the talent academy. In phase two, the testing and selection stage, the screening process is narrowed down to the specific sport, in this case football. The tests are used to hone the results received from phase one. Should the results be favorable, the youngster is subjected to further laboratory assessment and selected to join the football academy. Phase three is the final stage and is known as the development stage. Here the youngsters who have shown the greatest potential are selected and recruited into the football academies where they undergo rigorous coaching in skills and fitness to become elite sports personalities. The programme may take years to develop an individual into an elite performer or may take a few short months depending on the determination and levels of skills of the player. The selection and development phase is subject to the views of the academy’s scouts and coaching staff (BTEC National Sports, 2017).
Trials for such football academies are either open or closed depending on the policies of the club and the demand for such specialized services. For closed trials, an individual sends his application to join the academy. This is followed by the attendance of a game or a training session by a scout from the academy. Should the scout deem the individual worthy, he is invited to try out at the academy, which lasts for six weeks during which time the individual is either selected or dropped to go back to their Sunday clubs where they will still be monitored. The FA seeks to build these academy players by running a parallel youth league for various age groups (BTEC National Sports, 2017). The process of selection and building future sports personalities is not very different from other sports in the country such as rugby and cricket.
Scouting, identification and development of future footballers is big business hence an individual’s talent may suffer due to the greed of a scout, a coach or a parent. This is due to the fact that the academy staff is always under review while the parents push the children towards making it in life through association football. This may not be the individual’s favored path hence ending up wasting not just his time but also deny other interested individuals the much-revered slots. Football academies rely on their scouts to search and find talented individuals that have an interest in the game. The number of potentially qualified academy players overwhelms the number of scouts present. This means that talented individuals may never be scouted, ending up falling through the cracks. Additionally, the tests done to pick the best academy players are too general hence it does not factor in personal attributes.
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Football academies are the best step forward for the development of football talents in the UK. This is because established football clubs runs the academies. This means that deserving academy players may easily transition from the academies to play for the parent clubs. They may also be traded to other football clubs should they show the ability to shine on such stages. This serves to provide a source of income for the individuals while they are engaging in their passion. Alternatively, should an individual fail to make it as a football star, the academies provide excellent educational packages that serve as a career pathway for the individuals. The idea is very noble, however the FA should put more effort to streamline the work done by the football academies.
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