Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Variety of Sports May Give U.S. Players an Advantage

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Variety of Sports May Give U.S. Players an Advantage

Article excerpt

When it comes to concepts like 10,000 hours of practice or 10,000 touches of a soccer ball per day, the popular perception abroad is that American soccer players fall behind because of the number of different sports our young athletes play. As sports scientists in Europe are starting to find out, developing the best soccer players may involve less specialization and more exposure to the diverse American youth sports culture.

The gold standard for the game the past 10 years has been the Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams coached by Josep "Pep" Guardiola. Guardiola was a former player at Barcelona for the famed Johan Cruyff, who brought "total football" from his Ajax and Holland teams and revolutionized the game in Europe. His teachings and philosophies were handed down to his star pupil, who built teams at Barcelona and now Bayern Munich around a possession-based style that lulled teams to sleep by "passing them to death."

The development philosophy in both Spain and Holland is a heavy concentration on technical training at the very early stages of development. Players in those countries have been hailed for their high standard of technique due to training sessions that encourage "10,000-touch workouts" - constantly having the ball at their feet.

This idea of 10,000 touches is a little more specific than the 10,000 hours that author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in his famous book "Outliers" as it not only demands putting in countless hours to become an expert but by specifically getting touches on the ball.

The challenge for young athletes in our country in gaining 10,000 touches a day, or in working 10,000 hours toward a craft, is that young Americans have so many different options in sports. Where that has been considered a detriment in some circles of development, new theories are proving otherwise.

At the recent Sports Analytics Innovation Summit in London, a strength and conditioning coach for the Dutch national soccer federation found that there is a need for more well-rounded athletes.

Rene Wormhoudt believes that young players do make significant strides with a steady diet of technical work at early stages of development. …

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