AUSTRALIA won’t produce world class players until kids are technically competent at pre-school, according to one of Asia’s top technical coaches.
Tom Byer, who’s helped drive Japan’s cultural revolution, said coaches were overrated, adding that Australia faces the same cultural barriers producing players as his native USA.
Byer had a nationally televised football corner focusing on technical skills running for 14 years on the country’s no.1 kids TV show.
Football Federation Australia has invested tens of millions of dollars at foreign technical directors and foreign youth coaches, but Byer said the focus had to start earlier.
Now employed by the Chinese ministry of education, Byer is working on pilot programs for toddlers.
Join David Davutovic from 12pm AEDT for his weekly Studs Up football chat at the foot of the page.
former professional player said football (soccer) couldn’t produce ‘late bloomers’ like Aussie Rules and American football because it was so highly technical.
“Football is a sport that takes a ridiculous amount of time to become good,’’ Byer said.
“There’s no Cindarella stories of Canada’s going to win the World Cup or you’re going to find a kid that started playing at 13.
“If you get them by a certain age, they develop. To bridge that gap is nearly impossible for other kids.
“We claim to be the world’s game and the world’s game is literally failing millions and millions of kids.
“Kids that play the sport are technically incompetent. They’re not good enough.’’
‘FOOTBALL STARTS AT HOME’
As his book “Football starts at home” suggests, Byer said kids needed to have a strong technical base otherwise a professional career was unrealistic.
Having followed the Australian scene closely, he said Australia’s golden generation Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Ned Zelic, like Borussia Dortmund’s current US prodigy Christian Pulisic, benefitted from early exposure at home.
“When I read biographies or interviews from Neymar, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi, (Luis) Suarez – all of them attribute their technical ability and early success not to any coach, but the father,’’ he said.
“Australia’s golden generation is the result of the immigration from Europe, with the Croats, Italians, Greeks and the rest.
“It’s hard to replicate now because football doesn’t start at home anymore and everybody’s scratching their heads.
“Fast forward a couple of decades ahead and the cultures become diluted. The Croatian or Greek kid is married to the blond-haired blue-eyed surfer boy or girl.
“They’re trying to discover the wheel, it’s got to do with player development, it’s not the coach’s fault.
“The coaching at elite level in USA and Australia is better than Japan and Korea, the difference is that Japan and Korea, players are better technically.
“Skill is rarely the result of coaching, it’s discipline and culture. Kids in Japan train 52 weeks of the year.
“The problem is, nobody knows what the problem is. That’s the problem.’’
‘THE GOLDEN AGE OF SKILL ACQUISITION’ STARTS AGE 2
Byer understands that federations are reluctant to introduce his “disruptive” program.
While most ‘elite’ skill acquisition programs take place from 10-13, including Australia’s, Byer said it had to start a lot earlier.
“If you can get a child between 2-5 interested in a football, that’s the game-changer,’’ Byer said.
“By interest I don’t mean randomly kicking it, because any person can do that, I mean manipulating the ball – learning to pull the ball back, changing the direction and protecting the ball.
“A Latin kid in Chile, Spain, Brazil or Italy, by time they start walking have a ball at their feet and if you give him a challenge, he pulls it back and protects it and keeps it.
“You give that same ball to a Chinese, American or Australian kid and try and challenge. He’ll kick it away and either run to try and outrace you or he’ll freeze.
Kaito Byer, 7 years old
Sho Byer, 5 years old
“For me that changes the whole trajectory of a kids development if you can get a kid from that very early age.
“I believe most football federations around the world have got it wrong. They take their best skill acquisition (happening at a much older age, 10-13 years of age.
“I started trying to disprove this theory with my kids. I put little balls in all my rooms and made them part of the environment so that when my boy would walk up to address the ball from the time he started walking, I discouraged kicking.’’