Under-16s On Track To Achieve Goals

May 23, 2016 by

This year’s Brisbane Strikers Under-16s squad has had a rather inconsistent half-season, but coach Javi Gomez is confident his players are on track to form the basis of next year’s Under-18s and achieve all that he believes them capable of.

Performances and results have been a little patchy but Gomez, who is in charge of his first PlayStation 4 NPL squad, says that while his boys still have plenty to learn their best football this season is just around the corner.

“We’ve been struggling with a couple of long term injuries and a number of other recurring soft injuries, which have had an impact on the team performance,” Gomez said last week.

“When you’ve got reduced numbers at training – just eleven or twelve players – you cannot really work with the structure that you put on a game through game training”.

“So on one hand I’ve been focusing on individual skills, the how to make the technical actions, like the first touch, striking the ball, the direction and speed of the pass, running with the ball, their one v ones”.

“But then, as a group, we’ve been working on positional decision making. Our whole style of play as a club is to build up play from the back in a structured fashion, so it’s about patiently combining with good game speed, creating overloads and trying to find a free player in behind each line of pressure. That’s what we’ve been working on as a team”.

Gomez had no doubt that, with players returning from injury, the back end of the Under-16s’ season should see plenty of progress.

“Hopefully we will see a big improvement in the next four or five weeks”.

It already seems a long time since October last year, when the squad was put together following trials in which Gomez and the rest of the Strikers’ junior coaching staff sifted through upwards of fifty hopefuls for the Under-16s.

The coaching group made their selection decisions based not only on what they saw on the training field, but also on video analysis where available, and always with one eye firmly on the players’ capacity to work within the club’s football philosophy and preferred playing style.

Gomez readily admits it was not easy to make the right choices.

“I’m sure that in the trials there were some players who didn’t make it into the squad that were very good little football players and who could potentially develop into professional footballers,” Gomez said.

“But we’ve got a well-defined playing style; a clear idea of the type of defenders we want, the type of midfielders we want, the type of forward players we want, the type of goalkeeper we want. So we select them according to the club philosophy because the idea behind it is to develop players for the senior team – because we want to see these players playing at the senior level for the Strikers in a few years’ time. So that is the basis for everything”.

Having formed the squad, Gomez and his players have been working on a delicate balancing act that attempts to span the transition from pure skills development to a more competitively-driven mindset.

“Under-16s is technically the last year of player development and we are getting into the performance phase,” Gomez said. “So we are looking at when and where, and most importantly why to execute the appropriate skills in order to win games now”.

“While in previous years it was all about the skills, now we are looking at pulling all those individual skills together and to make sure we can make the right decisions to put into practice our style of play”.

“The focus on individual player development is not so much on the technical aspects like the first touch and running with the ball, but on how to bring those skills to life at the right moment and the right place during games. It’s about the decision-making as to where to make a dribble to attract opponents, or when to create a 2v1, or where to make a penetration run, or where to try a 1 v 1, or where to play a one-touch pass”.

While learning good decision-making is not easy at any time, Gomez said it was particularly challenging for fifteen-year-old boys because it comes at a time when a raft of other challenges make themselves felt”.

“It’s a difficult age group because there is so much going on in their lives” Gomez said.

“Hormones change, then they’ve got their school academic commitments with some of them going for their OPs, which is a lot of pressure. Then most of them are playing school football, some have their first part-time jobs, some have their first girlfriends – so there is so much in their heads”.

“That has an impact on their performance, especially on their level of attention at training”.

That said, Gomez and his team are working diligently to improve their composure and decision-making – the lack of which has, in some recent games, almost cost them dearly after working themselves into commanding positions in games.

A 3-2 win over Olympic FC at Perry Park and a 4-3 win over Sunshine Coast Fire at Kawana were good cases in point. The Olympic game saw Strikers leading 2-0 by half time and then conceding two early second half goals when placed under pressure by a resurgent Olympic, before steadying with a late winner. The Sunshine Coast game had a similar half time scenario.

“At Sunshine Coast we played very good football in the first half, really composed, playing from the back with plenty of mobility from the midfield and forward players,” Gomez said.

“We were 3-0 up at half time and there was a danger of complacency, of feeling that the job was done. So I reminded them of the Olympic game. At half time I said to just make sure we step into the second half thinking that it’s still nil-all and go and start the match”.

“And it was interesting because it was something different to the Olympic game. This time we started strongly in the second half, however we conceded a couple of goals from set-plays through a bit of lack of focus and concentration”.

“So in terms of dealing with the pressure we are improving, however the problem is lack of focus and concentration in some moments. We must make sure we are alert at all times”.

“When it’s a throw-in against us, that’s not a moment to relax – it’s a moment to switch on, get back to the defensive structure and make sure we are alert to their movement”.

“The same with a free kick. When you concede a free kick outside your eighteen yard box it’s not a moment to relax. It’s a moment to again switch on, make sure we are marking players and defend”.

“But other than that we played very good football against Sunshine Coast. We’ve created chances, we’ve scored four goals and that’s a positive to take on”.

It might be a case of two steps forward, one step back, but Gomez said he was confident that by the end of the season his players would be ready to make the leap to Under-18s PlayStation 4 NPL football.

“Honestly, I think if they keep up the good work and they keep their commitment and effort and keep developing, I think all of them could make it to the Brisbane Strikers Under-18s next year” Gomez said.

“Obviously there are some players who are further advanced in their development than others, but I think all of them can make it if they strive for improvement at every training session”.

Brisbane Strikers Under-16s (2016)

1. Jai Humphrey, 2 George Belcher, 3 Matthew Haworth, 4 Noah Stokes, 5 Kieran Hill, 6 William Kirkwood, 7 Luca Mazza, 8 Luke Morris, 9 Hayden Russo, 10 Jayden Balarezo, 11 Elias Christodoulou, 12 Josh McLuckie, 13 Kyle Borg, 14 Samir Thapa, 15 Uk Lian, 16 Thomas Sparksman

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