Thomas Tuchel’s approach to youth training is an interesting one…
Now managing Paris Saint-Germain, the 45-year-old German coach has a wealth of experience in youth coaching having developed with clubs such as Stuttgart, Mainz and Augsburg, before moving to Borussia Dortmund and, during the summer, to PSG.
While he was manager at Dortmund in October 2015 he was invited to speak at the Aspire Academy Football Performance and Science event and he was asked about his approach to youth training and he revealed the one thing that he would do now if he went back into youth coaching.
Although the interview is exactly from three years ago, it’s still pertinent today and worth considering for any coaches who might just be making life for their players too easy.
Tuchel said: “To me football is an absolute team sport and that’s why you can not train individually only to a certain extent. Of course we have specific exercises for forwards and defenders, but that is just a small part of the overall training.
‘Talented people are good at solving problems’
“But I am a fan of practicing everything in a very complex way and always having the team together.
“It is not really a philosophy. I have just not found a simple way of practicing with the forwards or the defenders on their own. And then just putting them together on the weekend.
“They all have to interact with each other.”
Tuchel is convinced that problem solving is the way for players to develop and believes making things easy for young players can have a detrimental effect.
“Talented people are good at solving problems, and if I were to go back to being a youth trainer now, one thing I would tell youth coaches is that they make the life for their talents as difficult as possible. Because overcoming obstacles is the most important thing for talented players,” said Tuchel.
“In my 10 years as a youth coach in Stuttgart or Augsburg I always wanted the best environment for my players . I wanted everything to be perfect.
“If I had to go back into youth coaching I would say that half a pitch, one TV and one VCR recorder are enough.
“And the pitch does not have to be in the best condition. The players should deal with difficulties and play regardless of the environment.
‘Putting them in comfort zones is a risk’
“Investing in the youth is very good and the establishment of academies contributed a lot to the current success of the German national team. It’s great we can offer them these great possibilities at academies, but putting them in this comfort zone also comes with a big risk.
“The effect could be that something is missing, the skill to overcome obstacles.
“Who is able to overcome obstacles? Who is able to perform even if the locker room does not have air conditioning?
“Who can perform if the laundry is not done automatically or if his transport to training is not arranged and if he has to organize it himself?
“Where are the hidden talents of the players beside the ones that are obvious?
“And there is one unforgettable thing I heard from a youth director of FC Barcelona when Andres Iniesta joined the academy. He told his youth coaches: ‘Don’t try to improve him. Just take care of him’.”
Tuchel is well aware that some of the game’s brightest talents may well have just inherited their talent, but he still believes challenging even these players is the way forward.
Tuched added: “I was coaching national team players like Sami Khedira. Andi Beck and Serdar Tasci when they were playing in my U15 team. But maybe an amateur could have coached them and they would have come professional players.
“Who can say to what extent I had a part in their development?
“Maybe it’s true that those who turn out to be special have something special inside of them. And that it’s more about challenging them on a regular basis and it’s our job to motivate them to be eager to overcome obstacles. And we should give them advice and go the way with them.”