'Individual development' the key to Australian football

FFA Technical Director Eric Abrams says more focus needs to be directed on the individual development of young players and less on the team if Australia is to compete internationally.

In 1999 Australia made the final of the U17 World Cup final, but since then tournament results at that level have been on the decline.

Before that period, the Joeys made the quarter-finals in six out of eight tournaments and qualified for seven out of the eight U17 World Cups with an overall record of 29 wins, 13 draws and four losses.

In the 17 year period since, the Joeys have only qualified for the quarter-finals once, in 2001. And Australian U17's have qualified for five out of eight World Cups with an overall record of 18 wins, five draws and two losses.

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Abrams believes that for Australia to improve, more time needs to be spent teaching our emerging talent with a focus on the individual.

“I think the approach in the high performance program is still a little bit too much focused on the team,” Abrahams said.

“With the shortening of our National Youth League competition there is a real long period before the start the National Premier League, so there is enough time to work on the individual development of the players.  

“I still think that we can improve with more practise. I think we don’t practise enough, if we only train once a day it’s not enough.

“With the staff in place I think we can deliver the quality of practise there is no issue there.

“I think and it comes down to the scholarships in Belgium if you have a full-time residence program there is area and space to train more than once a day.

“But it has to be monitored and what you do with the type of training.”

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Peter De Roo, Technical Director of the Centre of Excellence, believes the focus should also be on improving the player’s technique when under pressure.

“At this level and playing the way we would like to play it is important that first of all our decision making has to be quicker,” De Roo said.

“Because there is less time and less space. At the same time the quality of our decision making should be of the same level.

“However to keep the quality of decision making at the same level, you have to do things quicker, technique is going to be the limiting factor.”

Joeys coach Tony Vidmar agrees with De Roo.

“We (all coaches at youth level) should be critical on player’s technique,” Vidmar said.

“And don’t allow them to get away with bad control, bad passes because they may get away with it because they are bigger or faster now but it won’t help them in the future.

“We need our defenders to be able to defend better in one v one situations and read the game especially when the opponents play long and direct.”

To find out more on why Australia’s youth teams have failed under the national curriculum and how Eric Abrams and Ange Postecoglou are working together to fix it, pick up the latest issue of 442 magazine.