Horst Wein on player development
Posted by Dean Holden at March 26th, 2013
by Diane Scavuzzo & Stephen Prendergast, 26 February 2013
Youth Soccer News: Horst Wein on the Best Player Development is Fun.
America Should Let the FUN back in and Allow Nature to Develop Game Intelligence
“For growing children, physical activity is essential in order to develop their intelligence – children who can‘t play will sooner or later show pervasive developmental disorders.” Jean Piaget
should serve for millions of kids as IGNITION for a happier, socially better and healthier life (also fighting obesity and lack of movement) as it considers all vital needs of children.
More than 25 years ago, Horst Wein, a legendary coach who is well known for his work with many top soccer clubs and federations around the world, proposed a revolutionary new game for players under 10 years of age. This game, which for the first time presented the Game Intelligence approach to coaching at all levels, had the potential to fundamentally change the landscape of football/soccer forever. While the game has been generally ignored in America, it has spread throughout Europe, becoming especially popular in Spain, Germany and Italy. In fact on October 31, 2012, Arrigo Sacchi, Technical Director of the Italian Football Federation, strongly recommended that all Serie A clubs use the game for their youngest members to “produce thinking players.”
FUNiño, originally called Mini Football, is a 3-a-side game played with four wide goals instead of the traditional two central goals, and the pitch required is only slightly bigger than a basketball court. When it was first introduced in Spanish clubs, most youth coaches were very excited about what this change could mean for the future of young players, 7 to 9 years of age, who were just beginning their progressive program of football education.
FUNiño is the first building block in an age-appropriate football development model. It is especially designed for children under 10 years of age, and is much like “street soccer” played by children in years gone by. It is designed around the same concept as Little League Baseball or Basketball, both of which use equipment and playing areas and rules scaled down to match the size of the young children. This small-sided game allows kids to achieve immediate success – and further their achievements as their skills develop and their confidence grows.
Legendary Coaching Mentor Horst Wein believes simplified small games are imperative for the proper development of youth soccer players.
“When you do what you have done always, you will never reach any further” – Horst Wein.
FUNiño, with its rules perfectly adapted to the physical and mental capacities of children under 10, is critical to the long-term growth of the game of soccer, and ultimately to the development of generations of even better players and future champions.
The smaller pitch, and more especially, the two wide goals at each end, encourages young players to play the game first in their head before they finish their actions with their feet. Reading the game situation and knowing which goal to attack demands good perception skills in order to make good decisions. This game set-up brings the fun back to soccer and keeps the children wanting more.
The pitch size, 30m x 25m for all competitive games for 8 and 9 year olds, allows the players to reach a teammate anywhere on the pitch with a size 3 or 4 ball. This helps them to improve their perception and decision-making skills. Moreover, the players touch the ball much more often than in Futsal or 5-a-side or 7-a-side soccer. FUNiño fosters correct technique, enhances better tactical play and ensures full participation of all players both physically and mentally – all key components for success in competitive play.
Because the game does not require much space, eight mini-pitches could be set up on a regular soccer field with 64 boys and girls between 8 and 10 years of age, all playing at the same time. This also makes organizing competitions much easier and inclusive as more small teams are involved. Plus there are more opportunities to face different opponents.
There are 32 FUNiño games and many variations to be discovered by the kids before they move on to play 5-a-side soccer or Futsal at 10 years of age. Many parents agree that scaling the game of soccer down to the size of these young children, and keeping the size of the team to just three players plus a substitute, will promote greater participation among school-age children. It will also help children to develop confidence, self-esteem, communication, teamwork and effort, thus contributing to the character formation of these future citizens.
Learning how to play soccer the right way, playing it first in the head before finishing with the feet, is beneficial for kids both now and in the future, whether they pursue the game recreationally or at the very highest levels. With FUNiño, learning takes place in a fully-integrated holistic environment, just as in the game itself. There is no isolation or separation of technical, tactical or physical elements.
As FUNiño is played in a small space with few players, the same basic game situations (especially the 2v1) appear again and again, ensuring plenty of opportunity to learn and master them. The game promotes much greater spatial awareness – the appreciation of both width and depth – than in any other game. Because of this greater awareness, FUNiño helps to develop “off-the-ball” play.
FUNiño is easy for players to understand and learn. Due to the smaller teams and fewer rules, it is much easier to see everything and analyze situations. Smaller teams mean a less difficult, less complex game for young players. Learning to attack and defend comes naturally within this game. Players have more time and space to think and act than in 5- or 7-a-side soccer, and they experience a greater feeling of competence due to making good decisions and fewer mistakes.
Smaller teams also mean more touches on the ball, improving technical and tactical play, dribbling, passing, receiving, beating a man, tackling, and more. Each of the players participates fully in the game, physically and mentally, in attack as well as defense. Their efforts are usually quickly and frequently rewarded with a goal, much more so than in the traditional games for this age group.
The use of frequent rolling substitutions gives all the players on the team plenty of, and more or less equal, time on the pitch. Substitutions are simply a matter of taking your turn, rather than a “punishment” for poor play, and this is a very significant psychological factor for young players. Because of this, each player has plenty of opportunity to “be in love with the ball,” to improvise and to take risks without fear of making mistakes.
|“There is no question that drills are needed to better technique, but practicing them without referring to the context of the game or competition is of little value. The learner needs a context.”Brenda Reid|
Additionally, with only three players on each team, players start to tire after a short time; this reduces crowding of players around the ball, a characteristic of this age group. As the children slow down, they start to play more simply and the game becomes even easier to understand. Also, as there are no long clearances, FUNiño becomes a safer game.
FUNiño requires the players to use all their muscles, especially that most important muscle: the brain! Because there are always two goals to attack or to defend, the smart player can compensate for his lack of strength and height with good perception and decision-making skills. Even the less technically-competent players will gradually improve their technique through frequent contact with the ball as they participate increasingly more in the game than in 7-a-side and 11-a-side soccer.
Because FUNiño uses four goals instead of the two traditional centralized goals, it encourages the players to look and think more before they act. Thus, the players rapidly learn how to use space optimally in the different phases of the game. Players come to learn to always attack the least defended goal. This encourages them to use their creativity, spontaneity and improvisation.
FUNiño also helps to attract children who generally do not like sports to the game, as there is no real barrier to entry technically or tactically. Most importantly, there are plenty of opportunities to score goals! There is such a great variety of FUNiño games and their variations (over 50) that there is always some game for any child to enjoy. The games and variations of FUNiño, more than any other form of soccer, promote essential life-skills such as perception, decision-making, intelligence, imagination, innovation, creativity and endeavour.
|A typical FUNiño set up on a regular soccer pitch|
The simplicity of FUNiño leads to far fewer errors than in 5 or 7-a-side soccer as all the players can easily grasp the important aspects of the game; this gives them great confidence in their own ability. Additionally, young players are made to feel like adventurers, as the coach lets them discover the game for themselves without too much interference. Just like Street Soccer, the game is the teacher, not the coach! The less the coach instructs, the more scope for the child to discover what the game offers and to learn from his or her own mistakes.
FUNiño is also the ideal beginning game for coaches because it provides them with a feeling of competence they enjoy and encourages them, just like the players, to stay in the beautiful game. The game is easier to analyze, and even the input of a novice coach for his team is much more effective. Individual player performance is easier to analyze and technical/tactical issues are easier to identify.
The game also has benefits for more experienced coaches. The coach can modify the rules of the games at any time depending on the conditions and the players’ ability, simplifying or intensifying them to ensure that the players are challenged but not overstretched.
Rolling substitutions after every goal means that the coach does not have to worry about the responsibility of equal playing time for the players and thus reduces the potential for conflict with parents. Finally, coaches no longer have to put their “strongest” team out on the field, as the result is not all-important.
Referees are encouraged to participate in FUNiño from as young as 16 years of age. The rules are so easy to apply and the game so easy to analyze, that decision making is more successful. Because of this, the potential for conflict with the players, coaches and parents is much less than witnessed in the usual formats such as 7v7. FUNiño is also the ideal launching pad for young referees, who can subsequently, (like the coaches and the children) learn their trade in a progressive manner (3v3, 5v5, 7v7, 8v8 and then 11v11). These young referees are more likely to continue in the game.
And finally, what of the parents? The enjoyment that children experience playing FUNiño (a game designed especially for them), with all the benefits mentioned already, is the greatest pleasure that parents can ask for. Knowing that their child has the greatest opportunity to develop to their full creative potential is very important to many parents.
Beyond the on-field growth that FUNiño provides, the game has additional lifestyle and character benefits. It provides a positive, player-centered, age-appropriate environment to help develop a number of important traits for young people:
FUNiño acts as an important tool for the physical conditioning of all the players, encouraging them to adapt an active lifestyle. Moreover, the physical intensity of the game, where no player can hide, does much to combat the effects of today’s sedentary lifestyle and the risk of obesity. Having a safe place to go, where they experience acceptance, participation, fun and enjoyment and can let off steam, also gives the players a welcome respite from the more serious aspects of life (such as school).
Because players experience competence, enjoyment and belonging, they have more balanced self-awareness and are better prepared to make their way in the world, whether in the world of sport or other spheres of life. The coach offers a safe, relaxed environment where freedom of expression and full participation is encouraged and praise is given frequently. Players learn through experimentation and creativity and are given freedom to make mistakes.
FUNiño teaches a player a number of valuable lessons. Players learn to lead by example, even in adverse circumstances, and contribute wholeheartedly as their teammates depend on them. They also learn to respect a superior opponent – but not give up – and continually strive for personal improvement and continue to play to their utmost, regardless of the result
Young players are encouraged to think for themselves without being spoon-fed information all the time. They learn how to process information, recognize problems, find solutions and implement them. This is important for success in all areas of life.
Emotionally, players learn to control their reactions in critical moments of the game, like conceding and scoring a goal, which happens very often. They have little time to get angry because they are too preoccupied, mentally and physically, with the demands of the game.
FUNiño teaches players to see soccer as a way to make friends and to offer support when their teammates commit mistakes. Players learn to maintain harmony in their team, even in defeat, and to take responsibility for their own mistakes without blaming others. They come to accept the group to which they belong and to appreciate the contribution of their teammates
Respect for other players, for the officials and all people involved in the game, and for the rules are essential in soccer. Likewise, honesty and sincerity are vital in daily living. FUNiño teaches players to value and accept the rules as part of the game and to play fairly and not try to gain any advantage through foul play.
Players also learn not discriminate against any player, whether teammate or opponent, on the basis of ability, race or gender. FUNiño teaches players not taunt those who are playing worse than they are or to tease opponents in defeat and to always congratulate the winners after the game.
“A youth coach in any soccer academy not only transmits knowledge or skills to his young players, but develops future citizens in a much broader sense,” says Wein. “Thus the primary target of any youth soccer club, instead of ‘making’ or ‘manufacturing’ talented soccer players, must be developing better people.”
FUNiño is considered by many to be “a revival of street soccer” – a natural form of play which produced many great international players, without the presence of any coach.
FUNiño is an improvement on street soccer, since the games themselves have been thoroughly thought through and proven to improve all aspects of learning the game. Scientific research enhances nature. FUNiño is a completely novel approach, breaking with the traditional mode of playing the game with only two goals.
From the earliest exposure to the game, FUNiño introduces the concept of Game Intelligence. Not only are these players thoroughly enjoying themselves, but they are (often, unwittingly) developing aspects of the game previously ignored – which would not have happened in random street games.
FUNiño adapts perfectly to the technical, physical and intellectual capacities of boys and girls from 7 to 9 years of age.
Considered a coach for the world’s best coaches, Horst Wein has consulted for FC Barcelona, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Sunderland, Leeds United, Atletico Bilbao, Villareal, Real Sociedad, Bayer Leverkusen, VFB Stuttgart, Schalke 04, Mainz 04, St Pauli, TSG Hoffenheim, Deportiva Cali, Peñarol Montevideo, Pumas, C.America, Nacional Montevideo, Universidad Católica, Liga Univers, FC Adelaide and FC Kenkre.
Wein has also worked with the National Federations of England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Australia, India and Singapore.
Horst has published numerous books on coaching and player development as well. Perhaps one who has accomplished so much has wisdom others should discover, understand and possibly learn from. Horst Wein often asks, “Who is the best coach in the world?” and he answers the game of soccer itself – so let the kids play and discover the beauty of the game.
|Horst Wein developing youth soccer players|
Photos provided by Horst Wein