The best football players in the world are those that make decisions of their next best steps before they even receive the ball. Developing this skill early on in your child’s footballing journey will set them up in the best way possible for their next step. 

How can decision making be improved at a young age?

Here at SSA we give all players the tools they may need in any given scenario and let them play, make decisions, reflect and learn from them. We encourage players to continuously scan (checking surroundings for space, teammates, opposition etc.) and think about their best decision based on what they can see around them. 

For example, if our Travel Team topic is looking at scoring a goal quickly we may guide players into thinking about the best decision in a variety of scenarios. If they’re close to the goal and can see a gap they might shoot, if their teammate is in a better position they may pass, and if they have space they may dribble closer and make a decision again from there. We give this information to players but let them go and play, encourage them to keep scanning and see what outcomes and choices they make. 

The higher up the football pyramid you go the better this is demonstrated. Players such as Lionel Messi have been documented scanning upwards of 7 times in just a 5 second period to understand the space he has around him, and the location of his teammates and opposition. 

So why is this all important? 

Because the fundamentals part of children’s development in youth sports is that learning can take place in a safe, fun, and supportive environment. 

When you strip them of all decision making the learning element of development is lost and players end up making no decision at all. This is detrimental at such a young age as scanning qualities aren’t produced, and players don’t learn to start thinking ahead to make quick decisions on the ball. 

Players can then freeze and lose confidence when they try to play without constant instruction as they have been moulded into playing by somebody else’s orders for so long without any thoughts into what they should be thinking about themselves 

Has it been implemented at the top level?

Player led decision making is now common practice in all academies and is the fundamental base of the england learning system. Players developed with player led decision making in mind are now the players you see coming through the ranks and playing at the highest level. Players like Saka and Foden both have exceptional scanning habits and can make decisions ahead of time on and off the ball to create chances against the best of teams. 

Any questions feel free to comment, reach out to myself, or have a chat with any of our coaches 

Thanks for reading.

Coach Ronnie 

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