When New Zealanders talk about speed, they default to the physical attributes of a player.
But the rest of the world treats speed differently. It’s not just about the body but the mind as well.
For a former Top Flight Academy student, Liam Moehlenbrock (11), speed is the biggest difference between football in New Zealand and Germany.
The focus in Germany is on thinking fast and executing a skill quickly across all levels of the game.
Talent Pathway and Pressure
Liam trains three times a week with his local team – Fussball Club Oberneuland (FCO – http://www.fcoberneuland.org). FCO is the centre of Liam’s training and match day activity.
However the talent development framework also involves the German Football Federation (DFB) and the professional clubs of the Bundesliga. Both the national body and clubs are heavily active at the grassroots level to identify and control player progress.
Liam’s local Bundesliga club is Werder Bremen. It scouts players within 150km of Bremen and includes selected individuals in its talent identification programme.
He has been involved with the Werder Bremen programme since September 2015 and is constantly being tested by the pressure to perform. As players are only provided with an invitation for the next two talent days (essentially the next two months only) there is minimal room for error or complacency.
If a player delivers a poor performance then there is little time to make amends. Individuals have to be ready to hit the ground running from a very young age.
The benefit of staying in the squad is compelling – regular visibility with a successful, professional club.
Both FCO and Werder Bremen base training sessions on drills that encourage quickness of thought and movement. This includes attacking 2 vs. 2 situations with just 10 seconds to reach the goal, small-sided games, quick passing and thinking drills, and even playing soccer with the hands.
The DFB curriculum is implemented across Germany at the main cities in weekly sessions. Players are split into groups of five and play 4 vs. 1. Shooting involves a 1 vs. 1 session using mini goals.
At every level, game play is a cornerstone part of training. Ball work is linked with physical intensity.
A poor performance at the DFB training can also mean the opportunity to continue involvement disappears.
The focus on speed and pressure sums up what Liam believes is the key difference between junior football in New Zealand and Germany.
“In Germany you get pushed to your limits. It’s harder and faster here.”
As more Top Flight Football Academy athletes test themselves in different environments it is key to keep improving quickness.
Fast thinking means fast reactions. Players need to make early decisions, but they also need to be able to execute those decisions with speed and precision.
Quickness of thought starts at a young age.
When aligned with the pressure of the German development system it is easy to see how Germany has become a factory for producing technical, intelligent, athletic footballers.
The good news for New Zealand is that this environment can be replicated on a small scale. For that to happen we need junior players with the mindset to compete and continually improve whilst working together regularly.
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