Top Ten Takeaways From The Football Innovation Summit 2019

THINK ABOUT YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Wales FA Head of Performance Tony Strudwick spoke about structure, culture, systems being important when it comes to building a successful organisation, but he highlighted creating the right learning environment - one that is challenging and supportive - as being the key factor. Using the example of Manchester Unitedís Class of 92 to the current Academy set-up, to show how the focus needs to be on the environment rather than the Ďtalent factory processí.

STREAMLINE SCOUTING DEPARTMENTS
Everton Director of Football Marcel Brands revealed one of his first tasks since moving to Goodison Park was to address the structure of the clubís scouting network. This meant reducing the number of scouts and basing them back at Finch Farm, so they have a better understanding of the first-teamís needs. This sentiment was also echoed by FC Kobenhavn Technical Director Johan Lange, who brought his five first-team scouts back off the road and into the first-team training complex.

WHAT MAKES A PLAYER WORLD CLASS: SCANNING
Le Havre technical director Michael Bunelís presentation on the importance of scanning paved the way for an enlightening discussion on the subject between the Frenchman and Dave Eldridge and Craig Pullman of the University of Chichester who have researched the topic for more than six years.

The academicsí research agreed with Bunelís view that it is a key skill which sets elite players apart, but while the majority of the 300 coaches they questioned agreed with them, few actually coached this skill. The holy grail for the trio now is to find a way to scientifically test whether this is a skill than can be coached.

EXTERNAL ABSTRACT CUES GRAB ATTENTION
How you deal with the athlete in front of your and specifically the language coaches use was the focus for Irish RFU Head of Performance Nick Winkleman.

The Americanís talk on capturing the attention of athletes and the importance of using the right cues to do this certainly grabbed the attention of the room.

Winkleman passionately implored the coaches in the room to abandon the technical language of internal cues and embrace more abstract external cues, ideally elicited from the athlete themselves, to truly grab the attention, upload to the memory and never have to re-explain the drill you performed just the week before.

GIVE YOUNG PLAYERS THE ROOTS TO GROW AND WINGS TO FLY
This quote was used by Belgium FA Chief Coach Educator Kris Van Der Krugen as he explained how a move away from a team-centred to player-centred coaching inspired the Red Devils run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final.

Where team-centred coach are only concerned with winning, meant late maturers were being overlooked. The individual approach when done correctly should remove some structure: ďIf you tell players not to dribble they wonít dribble.Ē

Allow space for players to make decisions, to make mistakes, to learn and flourish.

THE PLAYER IS AT THE CENTRE OF EVERYTHING WE DO
No matter whether it was a coach, sports scientist, physical development, psychologist, physio speaking, the message remained the same. When it comes to development the player in front of you is the driving force of everything. The role of each multi-disciplinary department is to give the players the tools they need to be the best they possibly can be. The key to success is continuity of message. Players are being asked to listen to many voices but they should only be hearing one message.

NO TWO GROWTH SPURTS ARE ALIKE
Following the theme of individualisation and tailoring your approach to the athlete in front of you, Manchester City U21 Lead Sport Scientist Shayne Murphy, shared a cautionary tale about growth spurts. Having seen the elder of two brothers go through a tough time during his growth spurt, Murphy assumed the younger sibling would be the same, so took a cautious approach to his work loads as he reached his Peak Height Velocity. But the two brothers were not the same and an important lesson was learned.

MACHINE LEARNING AND THE INFLUENCE OF BIOLOGICAL AGE
All clubs are now aware of the influence of biological age, maturation points, peak height velocity and the growth spurt and now heavily define most youth development programs, resulting in the growth of bio-banded sessions (where school timetables allow).

There is a wealth of Data being collected during these key age groups from 12 to 16, and with this being done year-on-year- clubs are now looking how they can better use the historical data.

The obvious areas of research are to try and pinpoint identifiers of talent. Tests and data that will allow But the clubs who presented at the Football Innovation Summit, are now moving towards how they can rate physical testing rather than use it to predict. They are also doing this with machine learning, which is enabling them to discover correlations between tests they are undertaking which were not being seen before.

LONGITUDINAL STUDIES IN PLAYER BEHAVIOUR THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT STAGES
FA Head of Talent ID and Development Education David Court argued that it is not realistic to set benchmarks on young players psychological development.

The problem arises due to the fact the only extensive research on player behaviour and psych attributes has been done at senior level and an X=Y mentality in football has seen these results transferred to the development stage.

But this may be about to change as Court revealed the FA and a number of clubs are working on longitudinal studies tracking the behaviours of players though the development stage.

The hope is this may help develop the psych corner as a better predictor of talent in the future, though as the brain continues to develop until the mid-20s, particularly the pre-frontal cortex which governs concentration, planning and problem solving, this is no straight-forward task.

SLEEP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS
There is a reason why you feel energized or sleepy at the same time every day, it is your circadian rhythm, your 24-hour body clock. Sleep Scientist Dr Meeta Singh explained how sleep patterns affect the performance of elite athletes. To be on top of your game, Dr Singh, who works with teams in the NFL, NBA and MLB, revealed elite athletes require an average of nine hours sleep per day. This can be taken over a 24 hour period and not one deep sleep, so napping is good for you as long as you do not nap at the times you are expected to perform. Similarly, it is advisable to train at the times you are expected to perform. Will this bring an end to morning training sessions?

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