Does the pressure on young footballers cause them to fail? It is an interesting question as a recent interview with Aston Villa player Tyrone Mings claimed his best player development came from simply enjoying football.
Professional teams in England begin scouting young players at an early age. It isn’t uncommon to see scouts and coaches from pro clubs at matches for kids as young as six-years-old.
Mings is an interesting example of a player that not only overcame pressure, but he also recovered from football failure as a teen. The current Aston Villa player was in the Southampton academy from the age of eight to 15.
It was in his mid-teens that Mings was dismissed from the Southampton academy. In the club’s fairness, its academy has produced some brilliant players over the years and Mings’ achievement of playing Premier League football shows they missed one. But it was after his dismissal that he started enjoying playing once more. According to Mings, he wasn’t even able to play for his grassroots team once in the Southampton academy.
One of the arguments made by specialists in regards to the pressure on young footballer players notes that most players do not need to prioritise the sport until around the age of 12 to 13. They claim players are more likely to become “elite performers” if they play a range of sports and compete in a variety of activities as kids.
Players such as Jack Butland and Tim Howard played multiple sports when they were young before concentrating on football. Butland was also a rugby player until his mid-teens. Howard played basketball growing up in the United States. Considering they both play goalkeeper, the additional sports in which they used their hands helped them develop greatly.
Over the years, grassroots football in the United Kingdom has attempted to take the pressure off of young players and to emphasis technical development. Has it worked? In some ways, it has on the grassroots level, but the pressure to perform well continues to be high for youngsters.
The pressure is something football players must learn to deal with. Unfortunately, too many young players feel the pressure on the pitch early on and struggle to overcome it as they get older.