Confusion among coaches
Among countless situations that show the lack of understanding of a player's developmental prerequisites there is the case of a PSL coach who was asked to do something about his players giving the ball away at a dismal rate.
His answer was that he had identified the technical mistakes and the problem would definitely be fixed before the next match.
After 16 matches there was still no improvement. The obvious answer here is that the ability to possess the ball under match conditions must be developed during stages two and three of youth development, which require approximately four to five years of continuous and useful training.
Any youth training specialist would have accused the coach of making a false statement.
Sub-mediocre rates of ball possession, ineffective dribbling, lack of initiative, slow tactical decisions and erratic work rate are all direct consequences of incomplete or casual development.
After the maturation phase, age 20 to 21, very little or nothing can be done to compensate for the missing early learning and consolidating. It is both incorrect and unfair to demand that the current generation of South African players compete successfully in international matches against teams made up of players who are the product of full-term scientific development.
In this respect the criticism of players for their poor performances by the fans and media shows an unacceptably low level of technical education.
Highest expertise for youth development.
No proof can be found that any of South Africa's national team players went through the full development cycle.
As competitive football remains the most complex team game ever invented by man, the process of developing players is complicated and often difficult.
It is not surprising then that most leaders of youth development programmes in the top football nations hold superior qualification and experience to those held by professional club coaches.
The South Americans and a few other countries from southern and eastern Europe have taken youth development to another level.
Some of the countries have instituted scientific programmes for maximising the national youth talent for more than 40 years.
The result today is that young players from these regions are in highest demand, as they impress with their excellent abilities even if they are only 15 to 16 years old. To match this challenge Africa and particularly South Africa need to implement those obvious solutions.
A staggering investment without returns.
Considering the experiences in English football, the argument supported here by many, that money is the key issue in establishing successful youth development projects, has to be reviewed.
England spends R950 million yearly on youth development between the ages of 8 and 18. The latest reports indicate that despite this massive investment, the obsolete concept of youth coaching and its methodology have been responsible for the failure to produce high-quality senior players.
Some analysts even regard the majority of players coming out from the English youth academies as flops when compared with the exceptional imports from Brazil, France, Argentina, Portugal, etc.
This is a shock for those countries (like South Africa) that have traditionally copied the English coaching methodology.
Already in Africa, but not yet in South Africa, the South American approach to youth development - mainly the Brazilian and Argentinian school of youth coaching - is replacing other less relevant and ineffective solutions.
Is there a South African "style" of play?
Although there should not be any difficulty to understand what is a style of play and the differences between various styles, in reality, this aspect needs careful clarification.
To all those who ask: What is a style of play? The answer is quite simple: the specific manner and ways in which players apply their ball skills, tactics and physical qualities in the game constitute a particular style of play.
A player's natural abilities, such as coordination, agility, balance, rhythm, creativity, the body frame, speed power and aggression, determine the way these individual qualities, or limitations, will reflect in play. A player's style of play becomes consolidated and consistent towards the end of his-her development stages, e.g., at the age of 16 to 18 years. So, it is the players who "make" the style, not the coach.
There is always a relationship between this aspect and the development of players' football mentality (how the game should be played).
Further contributing factors are local traditions, culture, social and climatic factors.
It is regarded that the physical profile of the vast majority of South African players is comprises light body constitution, low average height, limited general strength and power.
What is less acknowledged is that despite some obvious somatic limitations, South African players can still master a highly competitive style.
With the help of mother nature and its law of compensation, what is not too favourable for top performance in the players' build can be compensated for by excellent and exquisite qualities. In fact, the football specific profile of SA players has advantages over the physically dominant type of player.