Coaching as an aid to help young players to develop within their group

James Rowe, alumnus Master of Coaching, believes that “clubs and coaches should be more aware of the different growth patterns of young players”

James Rowe is alumnus of the Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute and currently the assistant manager of Aldershot Town Football Club‘s first team. In coaching he found the answers to the challenges that many young players face in their development and in their team, and came to the conclusion that knowing each individual case is crucial to getting better results.

James did in previous studies research on the relationship between the physical maturation of elite academy football players and their motivation, need satisfaction and self-determination. “Coaches should be very aware that generic training programs can hamper physically underdeveloped players, and their motivation to want to do extra practice, do their very best, or work at their maximum!”.

James’ concerns come from his own experiences: “I am not saying that generic training with more developed peers is not crucial, because your direct opponent could also be stronger and faster than you! But I was born in late July, just one month off being the age group below, and I was physically very inferior to other players in my age group. This caused problems in my ability to affect games from 13 to 16 years. This period came with frustrations and loss of confidence and it is a pity that many new generations still experience the same.”


“To tackle this phenomenon, I was able to set up a system at Westham United where every youth player had an Individual Development Program and a mentor. Some mentors where technical coaches, but most were interdisciplinary staff members. The mentors provide specialist coaching on the objectives the player wants to improve. It works both ways, because players were able to improve technical aspects of the game, and work on the psychological aspects as well.”

“In my current role in a first team environment at Aldershot Town Football Club the challenges are very different, but I look back with pride on what we achieved. It is my belief that it’s important to acknowledge the different growth patterns of youth players, and consider an investment and amount of staff, since talent development and enjoyment in the game will benefit so much!”


Johan Cruyff Institute uses a rich learning environment that fosters educational tools based on a student interaction model. We aim for a mix of students from sports and business sectors, which also enables students to share their unique experiences and learn from each other. The students will engage actively in creative challenges that require effort, commitment and intuitive thinking. Visit our web pages to find out more about our programs, for example:

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