Part 10 - Youth Development

Spurs Need To Go Mental - Part 10


In Part 9 of the Spurs Need To Go Mental series I'm going to take a look at Sports Psychology and what a psychologist would look at in a player to determine his mental strengths and weaknesses. I'll provide you with a 43 point player checklist and the 1,075 improvements Spurs could make.

In Part 10 of the Spurs Need To Go Mental series I suggest the way the first batch of academy students have been taught is all about me me me and produces players not interested in the result.

They youth at any club are vital yet fans expect a finished article immediately, just look at some Spurs fans now after Harry Kane has scored 3 goals in 3 Premier League games, better than a £26 million purchase has done but labelled Championship standard!

Nabil Bentaleb has looked right at home as a defensive midfielder, nobody has done better in the role this season, he has been their equal and yet he gets abuse all the time even though the fans favourite was playing very poorly.

Preparing them for the first XI is not simply a matter of teaching them football skills, they have to be intelligent and adaptable, it's no good only being able to play in one system. If we want to gain an advantage on other clubs we have to mentally train them as well, not in the usual leave it all up to the youngster method currently employed but in a more professional way through the specialists available.

Now you may disagree with that but I'll bring you the insight from someone who has actually been through the system, not at Tottenham I might add, but through a clubs coaching. The result didn't surprise me but may surprise you and provides another example of why a Sports Psychologist is vitally needed at Spurs.

The academy system has been in place for 17 years now since Howard Wilkinson introduced it giving clubs control of youth development from the age of 8 upwards.

Now our player was at Peterborough United and began there in 1999. At the time it was considered as one of the best academies in the country. Any academy can not be judged until a group has been right through the system so while 1999 might seem a long while ago the boys in that academy are now only 23.

The FA Director of Elite Development and other highly qualified coaches taught the boys at Peterborough so not a Premier League club but still access to the top men in the country and all the latest techniques. They played a game on Sundays and had three training sessions a week at the age of 9. In addition everyone had to practice kick-ups every night at home and work on agility and balance.

What he reveals though was a trend among the boys, despite three of his year making it as professionals, that they didn't particularly care about winning.

Now that may be astounding to some but it was prevalent for me under AVB and I'll go on to explain why I think so shortly but let's return to the story of our youngster going through the system.

The onus is on the individual to play well winning didn't matter. After every game the lads would have to mark themselves write down an assessment of their performance. The coach would then give his assessment and his mark. This produced a system that meant the youngsters were more interested in their own mark than anything else.

Too many low scores and that's the end of your career, aged 10.

Everyone was afraid to make a mistake and the players would get rid of the ball as soon as they were under pressure to avoid making a mistake. Letting in goals didn't matter as long as you as an individual were not at fault. Coaches he says drilled to into them that the performance was all that mattered.

Now lets turn to the players under AVB where passing to a teammate was everything regardless of whether you created any chances or not. We had a culture where nobody was trying to make a telling pass but passing sideways or backwards to someone else to take responsibility. Thus a players stats looked good, he hadn't made mistakes but he hadn't actually dome anything either, that was left to someone else.

What happens when a player does take responsibility and try and make a telling pass like Walker often does trying to play it in behind the full-back for Lennon to run on to? The fans slag him off for not being successful with it while the Dembele's of this world who once in a blue moon try a creative pass get let off with a far lesser degree of criticism, when in fact it should be the other way around.

I like Dembele, his ability to beat a man is great but what does he do next with the ball, never a telling pass, rarely a shot. There is a mush better player that could be unlocked if you get his mind right.

Now I exclude defensive midfielders in this because their role a lot of the time is to play the simple short pass and to receive the ball from one wide centre-back and play it to the other to switch sides. Mousa Dembele plays as a link midfielder though and not as a defensive midfielder.

The problem under AVB this season was not just Dembele, the whole midfield were doing it as if to say, I don't want to be the one making what looks like a mistake, you do it. I wonder just how much of that it's all about my performance and my passing stats mindset is in our players at times.

In youth development abroad winning is not everything but having a point where it doesn't matter can't be right. There comes a point where winning does matter but if you have conditioned people that it doesn't then you have to recondition them that it does. There comes a point when individual improvement must be harnessed within team improvement to achieve results.

Is it those that are reconditioned that become the world stars of the game and those that still retain a bit of the old training don't?

Clearly at Spurs the mentality of the players is wrong and the individual has to take their share of the responsibility for that. , They should be motivating themselves for every game, yet they are half asleep when they start. Are they frightened of making a mistake?

Youngsters do get exposed to a sports psychologist but is there role seen as important enough within coaching, I don't think it is. A team of them could not only work with the players at the club at all levels but they could be given tapes of transfer targets for an initial assessment using the 43 point check list I introduced in Part 9 that comes from a professional Sports Psychologist who has worked with Premier League players.

Recent Posts - The Spurs Need To Go Mental Series
Part 8 - Fan Bonding & Substitutes Preparation
Part 7 - Les Ferdinand must go
Part 6 - £20,000 would have avoided the Lamela fiasco
Part 5 - Spurs need Gareth Bale's attitude 
Part 4 - Spurs need to assess players better
Part 3 - Spurs players should learn from Harry Kane
Part 2 - The mental shift Spurs must make to be successful
Part 1 - Spurs need to go mental


If the club want to be the best they can be then a Sports Psychology department that not only worked with all the age groups but worked with the local community and local football clubs could have beneficial effects. If you were a talented local lad would your parents want you to go to the club that is going to develop you mentally as well to make you the best you can be giving you the best chance of success?

If we are honest here, to a professional what is the attraction of coming to Tottenham at the moment? We are a club who can't buy the best so have to try and find those that want to be the best but it's no good just asking the player if if he wants to be the best he can be you have to independently mentally assess then to see if they are motivated enough to achieve it. Most players aren't.

If you pick up the best talent because you look after them and give them what other clubs aren't then that will eventually fund itself through sales but also produce better players for the club itself which in turn attracts other talent from around the world.

If Tottenham are helping youngsters in that way and producing a conveyor belt of talent then we become more attractive as we would be developing them in a way other clubs are not. It's a string we can add and need to add to our bow. Being a sheep will not turn us into winners, it will not allow us to win titles over clubs with money so we have to be better than them in areas where we can, not simply copy them.

The club have to look for continual improvements, if we do the same next year as we have done this year or the previous years we can expect the same results.

Simply buying a bunch of players and saying get on with it chaps is a rather hit and miss approach as we are finding out. There is plenty we can do to improve but do we really want to or will we stick with the same old same old and achieve the same results.



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