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Soccer’s Future Stars: Webinar on Player Growth and Development

In this latest webinar we dig into Biological Maturity, Physical Advancement, and Tactical Prowess in the Next Generation of Soccer Stars


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Soccer Science Host 0:03
Welcome to the very first soccer science webinar. Today we’re joined by two guys from Kitman labs, Michael bridges and Jamie Schultz. Kitman labs are sponsoring this episode or this very first webinar today. And we’re excited to talk about developing the individual player or developing the next generation for borders with particularly with the focus on biological maturity, but also physical development and delving into technical and tactical development now. So welcome, guys is there’s a broad, broad topic that we’ll, we’ll talk about today. And I’m sure we’ll go off on many tangents, but it’s something that’s been in the pipeline for a while. And I’m glad that we’re, we’re here unable to have a conversation now.

Michael Bridges 0:45
Yeah, thank you very much. Great.

Jamie Schultz 0:48
Thank you so much for having us, Reese. Looking forward to it.

Soccer Science Host 0:50
I’ll give a brief introduction to yourself. So I hope you don’t mind that I always say to people, if I’ve got anything wrong, no offence taken if you want to correct me at any point. Start with Michael, you’re the current senior performance strategist at Kitman labs. Soper. I’ve got that right. You’ve previously worked with the Premier League clubs like Brighton or Hove Albion on town, you’ve got MSc in performance coaching as well as the UAE for production. So a real good blend of, of science and also the art of coaching, which is what we always say, psycho sciences. And Jamie, yourself now senior applied performance specialist with Kitman labs, you’ve been a head of sports science, you’ve worked with the South African national team as well. And another interesting tangent, you’re a former Olympian yourself. So two very qualified people to have this conversation with today.

Michael Bridges 1:41
Yeah, thank you know, I mean, one thing just to give you an idea, as well, so my role is performance strategies now is predominantly working with kind of the clubs and the clients we work with on like, the zoomed out area of stairs, we worked obviously work predominantly in the world of data and stuff. So my role with opponent strategies is that looking at the strategy, looking at how we can kind of align data and align what they’re doing day to date with the practitioners to kind of take the club forward or to take forward the development of young players or take forward the kind of the use of they do in the first team side of it. Whereas Jamie’s probably and Alex Jones always a bit more hands on a bit more day to day with the clients on what they’re doing. But yeah, Jamie’s want to just give an overview of that as well.

Jamie Schultz 2:25
Yeah, sure. Like Reggie said, He will sort of surface the strategy how to utilise or pave the path on teams data and analytics journey and, and my job is to surface insights, optimise the workflows and make sure we sort of pointing them in the correct direction, making sort of those decisions easier, trying to innovate through data, the correct decisions, retain and release, anything that comes up, it’s not really bespoke to any areas, rather, what the what the journey the specific team is on, and how we get to them to maximise the usage of data and increase, or at least at a pond enhance their decision making processes around the objective information that they’re collecting.

Soccer Science Host 3:13
So it’s well overdue, isn’t it? It’s a sport that’s 150 years old, where a lot of the game is based on opinion, it’s very subjective. So the objective side is obviously growing. And so as the data side and academies across the world, across the world right now, we’ve all got the same remit to develop a talented individual or individuals, hopefully, for whether it be for their first team to go and perform and be successful or for the business aspect of the game to sell to create financial assets and keep Trump sustainable. We’re going to focus probably the majority of today’s conversation around the physical development, but I know we’ll go down the other routes as well. But one thing’s for sure players develop completely different rates. They’ll make physically different maturation points. There’s there’s different bumps, there’s no linear graph that everyone follows, and everyone’s got a very different journey. So my first question today really is about the identification of this athletic potential. I’ve got a young son that plays in the academy now and you see some big ones, some small ones, some quick ones not so quick running some slow and mobile, kind of all completely different. But what stage and age do you believe that elite if we’re talking top end, so elite athletic potential can be spotted? And at what stage of that physical development are the key windows of opportunity to develop these capabilities? Really? So that’s my my first question to you guys.

Michael Bridges 4:39
Yeah, I think in my experience, there’s so many different points that you see along the journey, where you see flashes of that, if that makes sense. So like, I think, and this is going out with a flat tire and Academy I’ve got a daughter who’s just coming up to six and like I take her along to like Saturday morning football, and like she’s a good mood. Like she runs, moves well, but there’s kids there that you watch and you go in, like, wow, like they move so smoothly already, like as a six, seven year old, you can see these ones who almost have that natural movement patterns, if that makes sense. So we’ve have, like the Academy experience, I’ve got just seeing that as a parent I think is really interesting because he’s already are starting to identify you can see with your eyes have experienced, like the ones who are so smooth and their actions now that doesn’t always then equate to them being like that as an adult, for instance, or they will always have the because maybe the physical maturation, the development through kind of as they get older, they don’t get access to the right development skills, or they don’t necessarily have the right kind of, without going too far the genetics of being able to have physically kind of powerful outputs as they grow up challenges. But I think for me, that’s a really early point, isn’t it, like you can see the kids who move brilliantly when they’re young. And then I see the next kind of stages is that kind of pre puberty, where you kind of you see those 1112 13 years all they’re fairly similar. At that point, maybe 11, or 12, they’re fairly similar on a before you really see the changes in, in the boys and girls, when they go through puberty where like you said, you get the big ones, you get the small ones, you get the ones with it. And then I think then the only other time for me, you can really assess everybody together is probably post puberty, like when they’ve all gone through it. And like they will all go at different points. So for me, those are the three big times that I would see it, and you have to take into account that they will go through at different points. So that 13 year old could look like a 16 year old and you’ve got 1311 year old and you’ve got to be able to take that as well and not just cross compare them against each other specifically at that moment in time. So I don’t know if that really answers your question on there. But for me, I always look at those kind of free points, things that I see is that kind of really early, great movers, that just pre puberty, how they move and how they’re working there and actually working towards it. In puberty, there’s a little bit of taking a pinch of salt, because everybody’s different, everybody’s changing, and then almost that post, one is when you can really see, for me the real elite time then because that’s probably only when you get the full picture of the athlete, before that you’ve got an idea, you’ve got half a bit, but you have to take into account they’re going to change a lot. Jamie has anything you’d add to that.

Jamie Schultz 7:17
I think just just to touch on that, I think for me, at least player potential athletic potential is not a state that you continuously in like, like you mentioned there bridgy I think it’s a fluid state and you move in and out of it. And then as a coaching staff or a performance staff, it’s our job to keep increasing the thresholds once the athletes move on moving through that athletic development phase. I think identifying it is there’s a couple of means and ways of actually identifying and leveraging the small thing like you see your daughter already getting the correct movement at early age and we know there’s there’s some things we’ve surfaced with research based relative age effects when they bought in the year how they moved through that and how we identify talent and just be cautious of those that relative age effect first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, the fourth quarter. So I think there’s a couple questions and answers that we surface there that we can sort of maybe dive into in this podcast as well

Michael Bridges 8:27
sorry, I was gonna say just listening and talking about the like the bits of relative age effect and and kind of maturation and the change I think the other thing with that is understanding their influences on development at different points in the pathway. So like if I if you think about in academies often you see how many of the boys and the girls as well a balding q1? Yeah. So there’s that early identification of these are the the effective ones, these are the ones that are maybe born earlier so they kind of reached the stage of probably access football athletic sup a bit early because they that’d be older where it was maybe as you get older, that effect change gets less and you see a few more pewter or tiles changing the development of like who’s in there and then finally you get that maturation bit of why isn’t there so there’s there’s so many different things that feed into it that you only get that see that bit in the moment. You don’t necessarily recognise it without zooming out I think

Soccer Science Host 9:28
I’m really kind of crude scale I guess your experiences have you ever seen a young player or athletes taking into account other sports now as well? That is a poor mover is a mobile doesn’t move well biomechanically as a young age, but then there’s develop into a good athlete and good number by the time each, you know, 1819 21 Have you seen our annual experience?

Jamie Schultz 9:56
Absolutely. So I sort of also come at it from a different lens Primarily my work in in performance has been in Africa, a little bit more of a challenge in terms of economy. So a lot to do with nutrition, nourishment, and how the players grow up in that environment, which is not essentially all negative, because there’s some core fundamental skills that they learn at a really young age. But also there’s the nutrition aspect of it, where the development is not as good as it should be. And it’s just part of the the package you get, and in working with economies, like like in Africa, but absolutely, and I think a lot of the time, when we were trying to identify talent, we were looking at it from a broad perspective, not essentially only the, the physical aspects, because it was a lot more of a difficult environment to to move or identify a player just done physical because somebody’s been worrying that. But I’ve seen a lot of them come through the pipeline, where it was our job to help them grow as individuals, but through a footballing curriculum as you do here in in the United Kingdom. But just help them through that. And absolutely, like it’s was part of our job to to help them through that. And they turned out to be really good footballers. But again, that that potential state, like I said, I think you move in and out of it. So a lot of factors that contribute to that movement when you’re going through the pipeline.

Michael Bridges 11:28
Yeah, no, I would add to that, I’ve got one player in particular, in my head at the moment, who is currently playing kind of Scottish premiership Premiership. And I kind of worked with him, on and off in different ways since he was about eight. And I remember seeing him as an eight year old, and technically, it was fantastic. And you were always going right? He’s really, really good technical player, my issue with him might be that he’s not going to move well enough, he’s not going to be able to do these things, when and so you almost focused massively in on that technical stuff was trying to develop the kind of the physical side of it almost go, well, we need to make the super strength, he’s got really, really strong to be able to almost hide a little bit of the physical elements of it. But But again, fascinating is the fact that he came out the other side of puberty, and suddenly he was a great mover physically, we were like, wow, where’s this, like physical beasts come from? Like, we didn’t expect it. And you ended up in a position where you rolled up a player who technically was very, very good and very capable, and kept a lot of those strengths, but suddenly was able to get around the pitch so much better than he was that we were worried about him until kind of 13. And it completely changed the game of where you thought he would capably get to go and play and be able to have those the levels he could play out. Because before you were always up, it might be an issue there in being able to get around the pitch at the top level or in the leagues that he is and is that going to be a barrier for him to become a professional footballer. So sometimes as well, like you said, there is the players that you just have no kind of not expectation is not the right word, but no kind of idea that they’re going to end up looking like that. Because there’s so many amazing things that can happen through that period for young athletes. And also, it’s the desire for them to make the best of themselves. But I think that’s a big thing as well is that desire to push themselves. And it was always something we talked to him about. And he was like, and he took control of that. And so not only did he develop through that period, physically, unexpectedly, but he also pushed himself and probably made the best of what he had. Whereas it was probably other athletes that or players that we worked with who probably had better ceilings in that area than him but they didn’t push themselves enough. So he probably went past them, even though they had bet ceiling as to where they want it to go.

Soccer Science Host 13:43
I guess we’re getting that into the round now with you know, with individual development, individual learning plans, you triple B dictates that certain amounts of physical testing is done at certain stages of a player’s journey through through an academy. Do you see benefits in really individualising athletic development programmes at the youngest age? Or do we just generally get the younger children out at the lower end of things, just playing the game, just doing it at some intensity that they’re having to move while they’re having to move quickly? They’re having to react to different stimuli that will be that mountain view that states? Or do we go down the route? Right, we’ve identified that this adds a little bit slower. So can we give them a little bit more schoolwork? But then if it doesn’t change direction, particularly well, for this testing? Should we give me more agility work? Where do you guys sit on that from any younger face? I

Michael Bridges 14:36
think, for me, personally, I think we need to give them the whole menu as a young young player or young athlete and they can develop in lots of different ways. And he’s not just going like identifying this player. We’re going to work on this because it will all come at different points. And you can’t necessarily look at q1 to q4 and say well, he’s behind in this area. So we must focus on this because he’s 910 months behind Under like 789 years of age, like, let them do lots of different things, I think let them play lots of different sports kind of physically develop their movement patterns, everything they do in different ways. And then eventually, when you get into around that kind of puberty, it’s kind of period and they mature and for those who probably when you for me, you will start to focus in a little bit more, and there would be not huge amounts, but when we when we need to recognise, okay, this player is going through their kind of peak height velocity, we need to pull back a little bit on them. So they’re gonna have a little bit of a different programme to maybe a player who is nowhere near that people have lost or another one who’s gone through it already. And identify and actually, this is now a period where we do need to become more individualised. But up until that point, for me, it’s about giving them a menu, giving them the toolbox to be able to move as well as they can to be able to panic, jump as high as they can. But making it fun, not just kind of drills and just doing it like buying lots of different games, buy lots of different sports, and just experience all those different things. And it will come because kids just they go in there that as they go and do all those kind of things, then they want to go on out and they don’t necessarily do it so much out on the streets or out running around in the park they used to do so we need to create the environments for them to develop them. And then we kind of focusing on the individualised parts of it. And then I guess, when you start getting towards that top end, is then when it could become like, obviously, there’s going to be a generic programme for all parts of like injury prevention stuff. But equally, it’s got to be really individualised for every athlete to make sure we if there’s any pre existing injuries and all this kind of areas we’ve identified to work on, that’s when for me, it’s really focused. So again, it’s like a three phase for me kind of really generic starting to focus in depending on where they are and maturation. And then finally right now really focusing on how can we help them make the best of what they are? That’s how I see it. And that’s how I see a lot of programmes, especially with the Premier League, who really do develop good athletes, in my opinion, kind of focusing on it.

Soccer Science Host 17:03
Yourself jncu I can see you nodding there. And is that, is that an agreement

Jamie Schultz 17:08
with us? Yeah, I definitely agree with with Bridgette there, I guess times are changing a little bit where, you know, we have access to large amounts of information on the internet. And, you know, sometimes mobile phones are now in the youth an extension of themselves. And like Brad, you said, they might not be out playing football on the streets and in the park. But again, like I’ve a little bit of a different environment where access to the internet not really available, sometimes they couldn’t afford a phone. And I was always in an encouragement of sort of multi sport, especially in the in the early phases, participating in as much sport as you can, and then sort of focusing on the football as they move up the pipeline. So in that, in that foundation, or that that athletes athletic, early phase stage, participate in as much sports and I do believe they’re small things that you can pick up from other sports, which can correlate into really good football development or football skills, and also creates different environments for the athletes to not only work on their physical or the performance abilities, but their social abilities as well. So that that culture that environment, socialising with different athletes, it might not be specific to football. And I think that also, sometimes I’ve spoken previously on football personality, like working on your football personality on and off the pitch when when you do come in, you can see different types of football personalities as they on the ball.

Soccer Science Host 18:46
So Jean, and with all the research that’s out there now with the different software’s different data collection that’s going on how accurate you think we can predict what the end product is going to be when when a player is now 22 years of age. You know, there’s particular type that goes on but from my knowledge of that the discrepancy between what the top and what the bottom could be is still quite a bit of difference particularly it’s open certain positional needs, how accurate can we predict what the end product is going to be?

Jamie Schultz 19:19
I think it’s relatively hit and miss Michael bridges like being part of Kitman labs to be able to also do research analytics with with the data and context that that team is in. So, from from what we found in the different footballing environments, it’s it can be a hit or miss some are nearly spot on, some are nearly there, some are completely off. And from my context also it was a bit of a nightmare in the African setting where they were just completely off. So there is some essence in it but again, we are moving through different times and different eras and you know the cameras Rochambeau Road, Medina or the predicted and There is to use and it can guide. But if you’ve not validating or fact checking as they’re going through the youth development pipeline, I think it is a little bit of risk in that. So it’s just continuous noise in your athletes knowing what they’re doing, and also having just that insight as a practitioner to say, okay, it could be close, let’s have a little bit more of a look into it. So I think the accuracy, yeah, it’s debatable, but I think I think it just gives the practitioner insight to make that better decision. When it does happen. They can guide the athlete through through the Ph. D. Phase, or, again, predicted heights, it’s hit and miss sometimes.

Michael Bridges 20:43
Yeah, I think adding to that, as well, like, Jamie hit a key word there for me, where he talks about the fact that he went it will support the practitioners and make decisions, I think that’s a really key thing here is that he’s not to go, oh, this is completely going to remove what you have as a practitioner or as a coach, or whatever domain you’re working in is it takes away is to help support that and help understand just some extra context within that. And why I think there’s there’s two elements, there’s something about this one, where we’ve done some work with with a couple of clubs around kind of what we call youth analytics. So looking at kind of what predictors have those clubs had that helped identify players who were kind of first team ready or have moved into the first team environment and where they’ve collected data on athletes over a prolonged period of time. And this is physical, this is technical, this is kind of reviews, this is Game ratings, match, training, ratings, lots of different areas, and then kind of working with them and working with our kind of data science team. Identify actually, what were the key things at different ages that we’re flagging up for all load players who seemingly went through and kind of broke into being first team ready, which was a terminology they used. And what we found is there was some, some really key ones there that may be flashed up or anything, but also there was some real context specific stuff. So if I was to say to you that that club specifics first team played high intensity football, what that meant is in almost a month way, its prize was that 10 metre sprint times was quite a good predictor of athletes who were going to wake it into being in the round first team, okay, they had to have a lot of the other stuff wrapped around it. But if they didn’t have that 10 minute sprint time, they were less likely to go and be able to get in and around the first team. But that’s that context of that club, high intensity, pressing the ball breaking quickly, you need athletes who can get around the pitch and explode quickly. And there was the upper elements that tied into it. But that was one that was like, if you haven’t got that, that’s something that could be a barrier for those players, for the what, but equally, they also had lots of players that didn’t make it with them and went and played elsewhere and played at a higher level, if not the same level there. So even that was kind of what drove them to kind of have the conversations with us is like why are we missing pints and that then brought out that conversation of well? Is it because the 10 metre sprint times? Or that that athletic ability is causing a barrier for players in our team? And then they can go elsewhere? And do it? Or are we kind of having seen that in the past? And just identifying that and just continuing to promote players who were that way? That athletically kind of built to go through? So again, as much as you going from insights It was then then to sit down and talk about well, why are we why is this an issue? Why is that something that we need to identify as opposed to then go and well, the enlisted Timmy sprint time is high. You shouldn’t take him on? Because that if that’s what you looked at late last week, you’re saying, isn’t it? But that’s not the answer. Is it? Because this we all know why it’s a really good footballers, are really good athletes who aren’t necessarily rapid over the first 10 yards, but they’ve still got a very good chance. So it’s great the conversation, doesn’t it be it was a different lens on it? And I guess the the other element to it? Is that collection of what are we actually doing with the athlete day to day now this is not just the physical This is the technical the tactical side of stuff. So it’s all very well sitting there going great and Individual Learning Plan for for Jamie for reuse for Michael. But it’s holding myself to account like what are we doing with that athlete day to day, because I could sit here and go look, I need to display and needs to work on his receiving skills in some areas as an example. It’s then like, well, what are we doing in training, what we do in individually what we’re doing using videos to develop that, because we need to hold ourselves to account to a certain degree as staff are working with these young athletes to allow them to develop. So I think that’s a big part of it as well, isn’t it like? What are we doing to monitor that we’re doing these three things rather than just going Yeah, I think after six weeks, 12 weeks, whatever longer period, we’re going to sit down and review it because yeah, we’ve done a bit we’ve actually have we sat down and done video with him. Have we done these things? And I think that’s a really key piece of how we as coaches and practitioners can hold ourselves to account as well.

Soccer Science Host 25:00
You’re right. And I think when you see they’re about, you know, high pressure and high intensity. And yet it makes complete sense that the other good semi for screen time or do which makes complete sense. But it to me, it makes no sense to discount that at 16 1718 through the journey because that’s how the first team has been at the moment. Now, you may well have the club methodology, this is how we play and speed is one of the main things that we need from our players. And that’s any prerogative to do. So. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be a player. And we all know as well the average tenure of a manager and philosophy genes with each manager that there might be the perfect one in three or four years time what that next manager needs. Similarly, if they’re a good player, there’s the business sense of keep developing them, keep developing those around football, then okay, it might not be here, but it might be somewhere else. I watch, I’m sure that both can do as well. I watched games from decades ago. But the monetary now and this is in no disrespect to any the top top players that played in those games, the game looks so different because the game looks incredibly different in terms of the technical requirements, it looks incredibly different in terms of certainly the physical, the spaces seem a lot bigger as well, when I’m watching back and then things perhaps don’t work as maybe connected in terms of moving up and down the pictures as quickly as a piece of unit. So the speed, the speed of the game, there’s no doubt the physical data showed, the game has got quicker. We’ll touch in there on now speed of thought, though, in terms of making correct decisions, we’re talking about making the right decisions as players and then that technical actions and things like that. So as Kitman labs, as a company is about incentives, if you’ve got a lot in terms of the physical, physical monitoring, how can we also look at technical and tactical monitoring and development of our code? And how does that all tie in across the junior?

Jamie Schultz 27:05
Yeah, I’ll chip in. So there’s another thing that we did with or another piece of it is, which is quite interesting. And you touched on there, like, yeah, we can do all the physical monitoring, but there’s other elements of the game. And some of that is the speed of thought, speed of action and execution. So how are the players, they’re able to keep up with the game, but their decision making is incorrect, or they get into the space? And, you know, they they, they can’t shoot it go, the execution is wrong? Is there a couple of elements that we’ve also picked up, especially from a youth development perspective on personality, and preparation? Is there certain characteristics of individuals, when they get into those situations, can we use some form of data and analytics to aid them or at least assess their decision making when they get to those moments of the game. And there’s a couple that we could identify as they were moving through, that the players that excelled in certain decision making aspects, or the some personality aspects like grit and resilience that did better in those situations as they move to first in football. So we had a look on how we can develop those, not not only just to, you know, a training programme, but Is there specific things that we can do along the way to get them to where the players are at that specific moment in time to create that good decision making or that good execution? There’s a couple pieces that we have done. And it’s a really interesting concept. And again, it’s it’s as you move through, like Michael said, as you move through the pipelines, making sure that you have this holistic look, and the game has changed. It is quicker, it is faster. There’s a lot more technology involved. But we also there’s other things that we are able to surface that, you know, you might not have done previous years. So I think it’s making, making everyone aware that these this is the potential and this is how we can develop that further.

Michael Bridges 29:14
Yeah, yeah, I think this is a really interesting concept. Isn’t it that thing about like, how the game has changed over the years, and is player X, who was one of the top players in the 60s and 70s. Would he be one of the top players now? Like, it’s a really interesting conversation, isn’t it? But I think ultimately, the one thing that stands strong Throughout it all, is the physical like the technical ability to be able to look after the football, isn’t it like they’ve all got that now, it will be maybe more or less defining depending probably on the area you’re in and obviously the development programmes you’ve gone through and everybody’s gone through different development programmes all the way through the years but they’ve always been athletes or football just if you look at any sport here really, that have defined areas and they Then, but then you go reflect on it and go, well, they were a lot slower than the sprinters nowadays, or they were a lot, the four minute mile is now something that most people at that level can smash easily. Whereas it was one person who did it the first time. And I think that comes down to the access of kind of the athletic training, they’ve had the technical development they’ve had through academies. And so I think there’s all of these things that are layered on top that helps to improve the outputs, I guess, in the development of it. But equally, the coaches have the same thing that there’s a lot more post development out there. Now, there’s a lot more kind of access to webinars, to podcasts, to hearing what these guys are doing day in day out to help develop their understanding and develop the athletes they’re working with. So I think everything kind of gets an uplift from that I don’t think there’s anything necessarily in terms of the players in other areas would not be able to cope, if they came through this environment, they would, I just think it’s one of those that you see it changing, coming year to year, decade to decade, and you will always see that there’ll be things that are evolving things that are changing things that happened. And I see. And I spent a lot of time watching the Women’s World Cup. As an example of this. I see. Now in the women’s game, you see so many better young players coming through than you maybe did 15 years ago. And that they are breaking international teams, intimate international teams earlier, they’re breaking into the first teams earlier. And it’s probably that thing of just access to development programmes, a lot more open access to these programmes there that maybe they didn’t get such good access to previously. And so you just see the whole level of the game going up year on year, because there’s more talent coming through the pipeline. Whereas maybe 15 years ago, you had senior internationals, who were playing a lot longer in the national team, and then you’re seeing less and less than that as time is going by because there’s more talent coming through the pathway. Let’s just think it’s the same in the men’s game, but maybe to a lesser extent, because that own development programmes have been in like, place a lot longer. And so if we think about that, as a capturing those things, it’s like, how do we capture what is gone through what has gone through the pathway? What have we done with these players? So that’s why I see those capturing of what the individual development programmes were, what were the physical elements? What do we do as coaches with these players really important, because then allows us to reflect on it. And I can think of players that I’ve worked with that I look back and go, we didn’t get that right, we could have done better with ways that was just through me reflecting on it. But imagine if we captured all of those things and had that in in there. So if you look at that individual development programme piece that we talked about earlier, like, without kind of talking too much about Kitman that within the platform, there’s opportunities to capture that sort of stuff around how do we work on the individual development programme? Like, did we do it through video? Did we do it through on the pitch stuff? And that gives you opportunities to then reflect on it? And not only just think about it in the past, but also look at the what have we done? What have we captured about what we did with this athlete? Why did this one kind of progress? Why didn’t this one, did we get the actual individual development programme wrong? What did we not work with him well enough in a different ways that he needed or they needed to go off? So I think, for me, that’s that’s that part isn’t it is reflecting and understanding that the game was always evolving. There’s the piece of accepting that we are developing players for the future, the game and the future, the game will look very different to what it does right now. So you can’t just go oh, that’s what it looks like today, for a 10 year old, we need to develop you for that. Because in 10 years time, it’s completely different. So it’s that understand that we just give you the real basics that everybody understands is always in football all the time and then holding ourselves to account and recognising what have we worked with on previous players, the players that you I’m sure recent I’ve got on Jamie’s got in your head that you think and they did make it what was what was different? What was the thing that made the difference for them? Was it stuff we did with them? Or was it stuff that they have in themselves already? And then how do we layer that extra piece on top of thing?

Soccer Science Host 34:06
We there’s clues left in success sort of ones that they definitely put us into what it took to get there. But then I sometimes wrestle with that statement myself. And we also don’t want to create robots where everyone is the same and sometimes it’s it and it’s particularly the player players. I seem to I tweeted this the other day, I seem to wake up every five or six days at the moment. And Lionel Messi has been something different but incredible, since he started in the MLS, so you never want to take that genius. So we’ve been convey as neither. I’ve got a bit of a follow up question based on on both the answers there actually, I mean, just my own kind of personal opinion. This is I think it’s really important that we don’t work in silos. And I think it’s the multidisciplinary teams need to be completely on the same page with each other if we can get some physical development work out of football. session about individual fantastic. And I know that a lot of new systems you’ve got will help people do that to sort of be a sport science can speak to the technical and tactical. So that’s, that’s probably the first question is, is how you see that working and again, accountability for delivering the right programme for each individual player. But also, Jamie, you mentioned something about grit and resilience. And I think this is one of the biggest components needed for any player and probably any athlete in any sport to get to the very top, there’s going to be knockbacks, there’ll be ups, they’ll certainly be downs. But that mentality to be consistent in their behaviours every single day to drive performance is is key as well. So that’s a question around how does physical speak to tech but I was technical speak to everyone and and how to be a little bit of psychological resilience on top? Yeah. Do you want to go first?

Michael Bridges 35:55
Yeah, for sure. I think the big thing for me is that we always have to work with the player in the in the centre of what we’re trying to do. Like, we can’t sit there and go right. As a coach, I’m the main man, I’m the king of all things like there has to be a recognition that everything we’re doing is for the player and for the athlete that we’re working with. So that straightaway means well, we need to be working together. Like we can’t be just working in our own little areas for ourselves to be working with the athlete and taking all the kind of the price that we need to work together, we need to do that now. Whether that’s sitting together and discussing things, whether that’s being able to have information brought up straight away and being able to look at it as we’re not in the same room, but we can look at it and we can go and visit each other, but we recognise what everybody brings. Because ultimately, if you think about your domain, you think your domains the most important one, you’re dismissing everything else that everybody else does, like if a player is not fit, if they’re injured all the time, there’s no way you’re ever going to get the best out of them. So that straightaway demands that we need to get the sport science, the s&c The medical team on board with what we’re doing with these athletes, because if I’m just going to go out there and push him into his limits every time and he’s gonna break down, we’re never going to get the most out of him, we’ll get it for like one or two sessions. But that’s it, he keeps breaking down. So we need to work closely together, everybody needs to sit down, they need to come up with a plan. And we need to respect that everybody brings different things to performance analysis, guys, identify things that maybe I’ve never even seen was watching the game. So everybody has to be an equally bought into and have their opinions and have their voices be able to hurt. Now, that doesn’t mean that it always needs to be based on what somebody says is what happens. But there still needs to be the acceptance that we work together. And we’re all in it together to develop the young person in the athlete. Now, if I think as well about that grit determination, the things that you guys, and I’m sure Jamie will add a lot more on to this on top of there. But I know when I did my master’s, my dissertation was around transitioning Academy players into first things I was lucky I got access to a lot of sporting directors, or Academy managers or people were the first team environment. And the one thing they all spoke about was the mentality of the athlete. There wasn’t they every good, they talk about the technical bits of his app, but every single one of them said that was the difference. It was the ability to step into first team environment and cope. Because maybe they were always the best player in the academy, or maybe they weren’t the best player and Academy and that’s what helped to ready them for the first team environment because you don’t go into the first environment as a 16 year old or very rarely you go to a 16 year old and be the best player will get picked every week, or guaranteed to play half a game, you don’t get those things. So you have to have the mental capacity to, to cope with that. To be able to understand that I’m coming in, it’s going to be tough, I’m not gonna get picked every week, I’m not going to play four games every week, I’m going to travel to places and not get off the base, these are the things you have to cope with. Because those are the things that are disappointing. But equally, like you have to be able to go into an environment and be engaged in that environment. Because if you’re a 17 1819 year old, you’re probably brought out and Academy of only generally been dealing with peers or close to your own peers, like maybe one or two years older or younger. Suddenly, as an 18 year old if you sat in a change room with a five year old, 34 year old who’s looking at the world completely differently to what you as an 1819 year olds looking at because he might be looking at the end of his career. What am I doing after this? Like, am I gonna become a coach, I’m gonna do these things. I’ve got two kids, I’ve got a mortgage to pay. You haven’t got any of those worries in an 18 year old and you probably haven’t been around people who’ve had those worries before. So that ability to kind of transition into the social environment as well is a big one for me. So it’s that grit determination that you develop and we need to kind of work on that which I’m sure Jamie can talk about. But also that social ability to walk into an environment and socially cope and not go in there and kind of just dismiss or not be able to read generalise there’s different people at different points in their lives around you. So there’s huge points on that I think you need to think about.

Jamie Schultz 40:09
Absolutely, I’ll also apply my lenses, especially with the grip mentality. I think Steven Gerrard was had a good quote on this, where he’s like, the players need to know how to work. He said it on one of his interviews. And I think that’s also absolutely true. But from my experience in my lens, again, it’s a little bit different. But I tried to put my own perspective into each of the athletes that I used to work with. So obviously, I grew up in Zimbabwe, very low on resource qualified for the 2010 Olympics. And obviously, it was a different sport was swimming, but it’s more, when you’re in that water, It’s you versus you. And I’ve tried to meditate on how I got through that. Uverse you always, you know, I will outwork everyone, although the the situation might be against me. How do I come through this and make sure I’m, at least, you know, make a decent competition meet. And it’s a lot of things that I saw working in Africa as well is, football is fundamentally used as a measure of how to get through poverty. So the environment is not great. And the players that I’ve worked with have that mental grit, like, if I don’t do this, this is my only option to get through poverty, then my whole family is, you know, at kind of Djibouti, and I think there’s a little bit of sustenance in that, where it was the only option so they came to the Training Ground and gave everything. And it really did help those that didn’t have that culture or that environmental that background. And I don’t know what makes that shift in mentality. I’m still I’d love to surface exactly on how people move through it myself. One of my huge passions. But I think also just constantly making sure that the athletes feel supported. They know what’s required in the first team environment, like Reggie said that they can cope socially, that they can cope mentally, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with football. Gone, you know, he’s gone walk in the streets, you can’t go shopping with your family, there’s a lot of social pressure, and there are kids at the end of the day. They are human beings. So they have school challenges. They’re about the challenges. So how do we effectively support them, and make sure that they have the best fighting chance at the end of the day, regardless,

Soccer Science Host 42:34
but we agree, I think development is is summed up quite nicely in my challenge with our support, and that I can completely see the conversation about several times we touched on it, it does seem to be a difference between those that want, and I mean, deeply wants to get to the top level, and those that need to get to the top level. And certainly the strength of someone’s wife, and on the other a very strong bearing on where they ended up getting to in whatever walk I guess to that business, be that sport, whatever it is. So you’ve definitely touched on some interesting things. Michael, you spoke about that, that transition things between being quite often the best Academy player and a lot of priority picks on you within within the academy because you’re the maximum that’s going through. So you get in a really high support programme. When you cross over into that first environment, unless you’re ready to make an immediate impact, you’re not necessarily the number one priority anymore. Sometimes you might find yourself. Number 21 Number 22 priority, how can we ensure across all environments, I guess now that that baseline gets a top programme, because they know in their highest level of challenge, that there might be certain reasons why they’re not getting the highest level of support anymore. Game time might now be limited because they found the person who scheduled is getting maybe into 20 ones fixtures for certain minutes here and there. How can we make sure that their programmes the women’s multidisciplinary programme?

Michael Bridges 44:05
Yeah, I think it goes back a little bit to what you’re talking about the multi disciplinary approach around it. I think there also needs to be the up down approach to it, doesn’t it? Like as a first team environment? Ultimately, they’re gonna get judged on results, aren’t they? So they’re nine times out of 10. They’re day to day thinking about how do I win on Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday whenever the next fixture is. And like you said, that means that that young player who was the best Academy player might not be the moment at this moment in time to help him. And the fact that he probably will develop to help him might not be for him, because he might be two, three years down the line. And as a manager, you can’t be thinking two, three years down the line often. So I think there’s a huge emphasis on that person who isn’t involved in the day to day of a winning game. So whether it’s a sporting director or a technical director, recognising the pathways and identifying how we can give those opportunities to that young athlete instead of Let’s say, I think, poaching wise, and we need to wrap support around that athlete, like you’re seeing a lot more clubs now, employing a first team coach who is not necessarily formance based for results, they are the technical development coach, or they’re halfway support cultural or whatever the terminology is for that player who, when they’re going into the first thing, they are still focusing on the individuals. And I think they would have to have a big remit on how do I continue to develop that player. whilst they’re in that first team environment who are focusing on winning Saturday, it’s a Tuesday, like, how can we make sure they’re gonna go and do that there’s a huge emphasis on a manager to be brave enough to put buyers in, like, you look at the clubs where they are producing young players. And what they have got is managers who were brave enough to put young players in, I’m gonna use Brian’s example, because I’ve worked there. I haven’t done it for a long time. But I’ve still got good affinity with the club. And I’ve still got good relationships with people. The one thing you see Potter, and you’re free from the zebra now is they’re willing to put young kids in. And because they’re willing to put young kids in there, putting them in the environment where they’re having to cope with it. And it’s a big thing as a manager to be brave enough to do that. Because like I said earlier, if you’re worried about Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, winning, they might not be the player that will help you right now. But actually recognising that they can help you and we can develop them, and there’s lots of growth there that could expediate it by exposing them to the environment, then then you do it. And that means not all of them will get there. Like you can think of lots of players who play one or two or three games in the Premier League or the championship, wherever and then they’ve kind of disappeared, and you think, where did he ever go? And so there are going to be some that don’t do that. But actually, it’s gonna be some that you wouldn’t expect. And they thrive and they can’t fly through it. And I don’t think applies that. There’s one in particular, again, he went on multiple loans everything away, not alone, you at all, I don’t think he’s going to be able to cope with that environment. And he did. And then he came back, he breaks into a first team. And he’s he’s played international football for elimination teams by a foreign he’s playing in the Premier League on a regular basis. But a top six club, like, sometimes players completely amazing, because you just don’t think they can cope. But you need to be brave enough to put them in that environment to see where they go with it. So I think there’s that element of trust, there’s the the element of wrapping support in the first team or alignment around them. But equally, like you said, how do we identify that they get the minutes they need to get so there needs to be conversations between the Academy and the 20 ones in the first team, like maybe he doesn’t need to travel and be the 22nd player in the first team squad this weekend or the 19th player is not getting on the bench and sitting in the stands. Maybe he needs to stay at home. And he’s gonna come and play for our 20 ones on the weekend. Or he’s gonna go and do X Y Zed, so that gets those opportunities to system develop environment and be the best player, they can come back in because otherwise you could go off a season without and kicking a ball in anger at all. So you need to have those conversations in those relationships to make sure that people can move up and down as and when they need to do it. But equally, they then get the environment in the first team that allows them to develop as well, rather than just Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, just concentrate on how we’re going to win the game. And often if they are 21st 22nd in the squad, they’re they’re doing the shadow play for the opposition. So we’re still not developing it. So it’s identifying all of those things to make sure that keep getting pushed the thing? I spoke a lot there, Jamie, but is there anything you wanted to add to that?

Jamie Schultz 48:24
No, I think I think that’s spot on. Bridgette, as part of also the some of the youth development analytics that we we looked at is one of the key factors are progressing through an academy pipeline from, you know, the foundation face, the first team was the percentage of time playing above your age group. And I think just knowing that information of how long they’ve played above age group, when you get to that 20 threes, and finally breaking into the first team, it’s a different ballgame. But the players done this throughout their entire athletic journey. They’ve they’ve come across the certain things and just having the bravery and courage to execute what you’ve learned on your journey. As a player yourself. You’ve done this before. And the manager actually having the courage to pop that player in for for a couple of minutes. But again, without risking the in the 22 squad but not getting that exposure time.

Soccer Science Host 49:19
The final final kind of question for me is it certainly seems as if things are moving positively. And you know, in terms of the cohesive you’re around development players and we’re certainly seeing young product in that there’s no doubt since the introduction, the triple B has been success in the youth national teams, the senior national team is closer and closer in terms of levels of success. So when we’re trying ultimately to develop players for what I believe is the top league in the world to get players playing in the Premier League probably means and this is a number from dinner, but you probably need to be in a top 1500 2000 players in the world to consistently play in in that lead us. That’s a very small port. So when we’re trying to develop that and Certainly things go in the right way. If you were to be hypercritical of the current systems that are in place and current support systems around the government, what is needed next? What advancements have come in to support? These are big players?

Michael Bridges 50:18
Yeah, tough question that. I think it’s the golden ticket, isn’t it? If everyone could get that, right, if you could get that, right, I think you’d be flying. But I think the big thing that I always look at is probably not on the pitch is probably the off the pitch stuff, the development of the human and the person. And I think this will massively support adding on multiple different elements to this, I think if you can develop the person, the human and give them lots of elements to it, the stronger they will be to overcome setbacks, the stronger they’ll be to understand different things. And like, I’m going to unashamedly steal this off someone that I used to do a lot of work with, at least talk about an athlete, if you think about them as a table was their kind of thing. So you think there’s a time when they’re all they’ve ever got is football. As soon as things get tough with the tables gonna fall out, it’s got one leg. So the more legs of the table, you can give this young athlete the stronger they can be. So if they’ve got the football with one, they’ve got academia or studies or whatever it is that that works for them, if they’ve got family and friends and different interests, if they like to play different sports, if they like to do they’ve got hobbies away from sport. And they’re not just I’m Michael, I’m a football and that’s all I do Orion race like, that helps on so many different layers. Because if you ever get released, it’s not like that’s my whole life taken away from me, the tables falling down. If you don’t ever get released, and you go through the programme, well, you if you have a bad week on Saturday, you play terribly. If all you’re ever obsessing about is football, we all you think about my poor performance come wherever my next game is. And that’s all you think about and it just consumes you. Whereas if you’re able to go home and spend time with your family and your friends, you’re able to go and do your hobbies, you go and do the things that it helps release the pressure, it helps to release that kind of pressure. And let’s face it, you play in the Premier League at the top level, the pressure there is huge is so like there’s so many lenses on you in so many different ways. So having that ability to just release away from it slightly and have different things is a massive thing for him. And I know, and it’s funny, it’s a club, that you’re at the moment there was a young athlete I spoke to who used to do in his home country to do a lot of photography. And he was speaking to me about how he was struggling. He was like, I don’t I don’t do that here. But he said I just kind of don’t have my spare time. I don’t do it. And I said, Well, why don’t you do it? He said, Well, I just didn’t assume it’d be okay. And he’s like, What do you mean, you don’t assume it didn’t be okay. He was like, Well, I’m here to be a footballer, I’m here to do these things. I’m assuming that that’s what I need to do. And I was like, why don’t you just go do it? I don’t think anyone’s going to stop me. I don’t see why you can’t go and do that. And three month fast forward three months later, fascinating conversation with him was like, he was like a different person walk into the room. He bounced into the room, he had a big smile on his face. And he wanted to show me the videos he’d done on his camera. And he said, I spoke to the head coaches project manager. And they were like, Yeah, of course, like, how can we help you do it? Rather than? No, you can’t do those things like how can we help you go and do these things. And he had uploaded videos to YouTube, he kind of created all these things that it and he had a real passion for it. And you could see he was just a different character for it. And straight away. The other thing you saw was, he wasn’t beating himself up in a pitch so much. He wasn’t down on the week, like during the week, because he went away and released those things. And like, for me, that was like the one if like, in myself, I was like, yes, that is so my belief was there. But I saw a change in a young person in that short amount of time, just because they created that release for themselves. And I think that, for me is the massive one is like making sure these kids and these young athletes and these young people understand you’re not a footballer only, that’s just what you do. Like you need to do these other things. And it’s not a Oh, it’s a backup plan. It’s a choice. This is to help you just as a person all the way through and for me, that’s the biggest thing and also given those opportunities to reflect on those things that you’ve done and the learning opportunities you’ve had because, you know, like kids in academies get some incredible experiences some amazing opportunities to go and do things they may never have done. So how do you make sure that that’s captured for them and they understand like wow, look at all these things. This isn’t just a normal everyday thing I get to do I get to go deep array with the Premier League competitions or my club have taken me to some far flung place like China or somewhere to go and experience these things young like these are incredible experiences that that they need to reflect to be able to reflect on what an opportunity but also encouraged to go and do it more and become the people when the young people and then the adults they can become and I think that helps to unfilled stuff. It’s not just it’s one and the other. I think it comes hand in hand for me. Yes, I agree

Jamie Schultz 54:50
with you. I I completely agree with you, Michael. Literally every single point. But but from from an E Triple P perspective. There is The evidence that has worked so far, I mean, if you if you look at the current transfers over the last three, four years, English players have gone for just using as a transfer cost as a metric of success, but to this window of Declan rice hurricane or 400 million, so English players are developing correctly, it’s just what’s the next step of this? As, as practitioners and as the league and the E, Triple P, are we able to take it to the next level? What how do we raise the bar? What’s the next insight? How can we create create this best practice sharing environment to make sure that the athletes that we have within the English chatting in the country are developing correctly? But what was the what is the new insights and intelligence that we can draw out of? And how can we best support these athletes through these new times? So I think it’s just a continuation and involvement of certain practices, and creating that sharing environment, if it’s driven by a practitioner, or driven by the League, how can we create this? The sharing practices and, you know, some, some clubs are quite strict on, you know, I don’t really want to share what we do we think we’re doing something quite special, that changes from club to club, but how can we at least work together as a country as a, as a league and make sure those best practices are shared and we can all benefit for for our athletes in the academy programme?

Soccer Science Host 56:25
James has, that’s brilliant. I mean, we’ve gone around physical, tactical, tactical, psychological, social. So Claire, everything in public just under an hour there. So I know, we’re only really scratching the surface of some of these topics that we’re talking about. But it’s been I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. So thank you very much for giving us your time and having this conversation today. And I’m sure that the people that are get to watch it or listen to it backwards, I really enjoy listening to it as well. I just want to base on the record my thanks to get my lab see, the back to the recent conference that we held at St. George’s Park. We had a podcast with Darcy Norman, just last week, and now this webinar as well, which may well go out with her podcast as well. So a big thank you to the guys there, yourself for giving us your time today. And if anyone you know, even as we’re talking on the different questions, I’ve got to put in notes here that he’s given me a little lightbulb moments. If anyone wants to reach out to you, from listening back to this, how would they do that? What’s the best experience?

Michael Bridges 57:29
Um, I guess we’re more than welcome to drop an email and get into contact that way. In terms of that, easier said than done on this, but like, my email is m bridges, at Kitman And Jamie’s is the same with JD Schultz. Like, fit Like, there that’s one way through the website connects into the website and going on there for sure is definitely got lots of contact details there. And they can kind of FYI for us and doing it that way. And I think just just doing those things will give you opportunities, but we’re on LinkedIn, we’re on those things as well. Please reach out and have those questions. I know it’s been I’ve had lots and funnily enough, I had several come in contact me after the conference, you run reach to do that, and we’re more than happy to discuss stuff and be challenged and discuss those things I think would probably be for me, anything you’d add on that Jamie?

Jamie Schultz 58:25
No, that’s that’s that’s spot on. Yeah, J Schultz. Kitman labs would love to connect Kitman. would love to connect also on LinkedIn. So feel free to drop me a message. And yeah, any questions? Let me know. Happy to, to have a conversation with you.

Soccer Science Host 58:41
Well, thank you again, both. will wrap wrap it up. There been? It’s been a brilliant conversation. Hopefully, the first of many of them will continue working together as well. And the reason why we do this is so that, you know, we can connect people from around the different corners of the world that have got an interest in what we’re talking about. And I think the more sharing and conversations that we’re one that the more that we can develop in this in this area. So thank you very much for your time today.


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