Everything new in youth football from 2024: “Must think like children”

Leipzig.“We must not make the mistake of simply transferring the principles that apply in adult football to children’s sports,” says Markus Hirte clearly. The sports director for talent promotion of DFB is currently preparing everything to revolutionize children’s football fundamentally in Germany from the summer of 2024. On Monday, the 59-year-old spoke at the young competitive sports symposium for the Department of Applied Training Science (IAT). For years, the Leipzig Competence Center has supported athletes and their coaches in their daily work with a holistic, scientific framework.

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In the hull of the RB Arena, speakers from a wide range of sporting sub-disciplines will provide insight into the current state of research and perspectives on the future of targeted youth development until Wednesday. In this context, Hirte, who has been head of talent promotion at DFB since 2016, also presented the much-discussed new promotion concept with the somewhat unwieldy name “Age- and development-appropriate competition system in football”. Basically, this allows for a complete reorganization of the training and development principle in German children’s football and must be rolled out and implemented across all state associations at the beginning of the 2024/25 season. DFB Federal Youth Day voted unanimously for this after a two-year test phase.

Competition is no longer the only focus

At its core, within this concept, Hirte asks whether competition in its basic form is still suitable for the development of young talents, or whether it should rather serve to achieve the goal. So far, the majority of training management and personality development has been designed too quickly for the next match or tournament, and according to Hirte, it inevitably also affects the subjective decisions of coaches, clubs and parents: “We all grew up with it. , but we must not make mistakes and make it easy to transfer the principles that apply in adult football to children’s sports. ”

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The competition in its new form puts other features in the foreground, Hirte mentions the recruitment of young talents, player development and team building as well as the acquisition of social skills as goal definitions. But one concept hovers everywhere – fun. Precisely the aspect that drives children to the football fields of this nation at a very early age, so to speak, the basic essence of the sport: “We need to start thinking like children and think about what children at this age want. And apart from championships and tactical sessions, it means playing with each other, scoring goals and the feeling of achievement – both individually and in a team. “

Prioritize the fun

To meet these requirements, DFB plans to introduce mini-football as a mandatory form of play. It is no coincidence that the word “fun” also appears in the name of the game and the training theory, which was devised in the 1980s by Horst Wein, a former national hockey player who died in 2016.

In future, the G, F and E youth teams will play in the recommended three-man match for a total of four goals – but without a goalkeeper, to avoid the positions being determined prematurely. The reduced number of players, the limited space including a “shooting zone” and the doubling of the targets were to promote precisely those aspects of the children that Hirte and DFB as a whole define as future targets. Based on the latest scientific findings, head ball should also be limited to what is absolutely necessary in childhood. There will be no kicks, corner kicks or throw-ins, instead dribbles.

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More ball contacts for each child, faster decision-making and more technically developed play are emphasized, the complexity of the game must be reduced in order to specifically address the cognitive and physical needs of these age groups and to minimize the pressure to perform.

“Game afternoons” with many games

However, DFB does not want to completely hide the success orientation, on the contrary. They just want to define and connote the concept of success differently – it also changes “game day”, as we know it from, for example, the adult sector. Instead of playing just one match on the weekend, where too much emphasis is placed on winning or losing, ‘Game Afternoons and Festivals’ aims to host a series of multi-team games. A rotational principle must ensure that each child gets their time and that the fun of the game is preserved. Hirte about this: “The kids don’t want the whole week after a game to just talk about mistakes and shortcomings and the negative aspects that are spread by coaches and parents.”

Hirte does not want to see an artificial reduction of the competition aspects and the associated risk that the highly talented can be slowed down in their development by others as a stumbling block to football’s brave new world: “The opposite is the case. Those who may be physically superior are now better trained technically and cognitively, learning to appreciate collaboration and team success. Their benefits will also become apparent later in the transition to the youth sector. ”

It will probably be difficult to appreciate a long-term concept sufficiently in maybe 15 to 20 years – times go by too fast and the noble intentions are often too fragile. But who knows how Markus Hirte is quietly happy and feels confirmed when a seven-year-old might lift the World Cup trophy in 2042.

By George Meyer

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