Why Messi and Neymar are an endangered species
Describe the best players in the world, and most are drawn to the qualities of skilful players who can carry the ball efficiently and beat numerous opponents consistently. They are also the ones to be called upon to produce something special for the team in the big moments of a game.
These players are confident, creative, crafty and selfish…. Wait, selfish?
Well if we compare the behaviours of champions with our juniors, there’s a cultural acceptance to label the little ones who are being brave with the ball, to be selfish. If they are deemed ‘too good’ most will either be constrained in sessions with limited touches or pushed up to older age groups. Here, there is less chance of dominating with the ball and more emphasis on team play with the highest of value placed on passing.
“Don’t play with it!”
“S/he takes too many touches”
These expressions are all too common from the sideline and in coaching conversations.
Are players with Messi’s and Neymar’s ability with the ball developing BECAUSE of their environment or INSPITE of their environment?
It seems the environments that do nurture the individual are away from any formal coaching or organised sport and in the streets, playgrounds and backyards.
“I trained 3-4 hours a week at Ajax when i was little but played 3-4 hours everyday on the street. So where do you think I learnt football?” – Johan Cruyff
If sporting cultures continue to squash self-expression, those individual behaviours may well become extinct.
There is evidence of cultures raising the awareness – Dean Heffernan from Australia shares:
“The next Messi could slip through the cracks… by being knocked down within football’s systems, or not being allowed to flourish, and play creatively.” (Read More)
It’s not that we’re deliberately meaning to discourage skill. In our honest intent as coaches, there’s valid concern about engagement for all learners within the group and also be wanting to challenge the best players with extra constraints.
But if solely focusing on team play and passing ability, how will we continue to produce Messi-like runs with the ball or Neymar-like creativity?
If we look beyond the sporting realm, being oriented to self is an all-important part of the development journey, particularly early on, knowing that ‘integrative functioning is on the way.’
On another level, valuing the team over the individual can also squash a learner’s unique potential. So remember, when promoting team principles, to provide for diversity and celebrate individual expression. Knowing at the very least you are supporting every child and perhaps even encouraging the next Messi or Neymar.
Q) How do we nurture self-expression, creativity and cater for individual diversity?
Through the power of PLAY
Design the GAME
Let them Play
Watch them Learn
Our next blog will explore how to bring back the organic nature of play to our facilitated environments. (Due Monday, 14th November)