This question is probably universal: Youth Development vs Competition – should they coexist? The dilemma of trying to define and even differentiate what is training and what is meant by Competition in youth football has dragged in the mind of many people over the many years that dedicated to this sport.
When you want to define the characteristics of each club and how they train, the opinions differ. These disparities happen because each one has an idea about what he means by Formation and Competition.
Some clubs define that in their club, the formation happens until the U12 and from there, it starts the competition form. Others say that the youth development goes to U13 and from there it will be competition. The explanation, according to them, is that it is the passage from simple 7×7 football (in some cases 9×9 football) to pure 11×11 football.
What we must do is limit these factors. And we can start right away by knowing the reality and the history of the club where we are working and by trying to find out from the club officials or from who actually ‘commands’, what or what goals of the club: To form? To compete? Both?
Giving some examples of questions we do often come to, when it comes down to young development: from which step the degree of requirement should be higher; the definition of rules of use of the players; the definition of the number of athletes who go to the game and who plays; the profile definition of the coach of a Training and Competition team, because they must be different. The answers to these questions, among the background of the club, will help you to determine whether you should play in a competitive mindset or a development one, or a mixed one.
So, in theory, yes. Competition helps improve youth development. But only at a certain point of the youth athlete. It shouldn’t be a problem when it comes down to a U12 or minor football player, to be concerned about the table. Football at that age should be about the basics of the game, and most of all, about learning the basics of mental skills like respect, team work and the ability to work hard for something.
When the football is older, the competition factor is important to not only keep them motivated, but to start introducing to young players the real factor of life: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. So, in conclusion, competition is a “must” when it comes down to youth development, but only from a certain age.