Australia is producing 'robots', says AIS youth guru Smith


Australia is producing 'robots', says AIS youth guru Smith

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Damo Baresi
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Australia is producing 'robots', says youth guru Smith
BY DAVE LEWIS

AIS Youth coaching kingpin Ron Smith, the man who nurtured golden generation stars like Mark Viduka, Vince Grella, Craig Moore and Lucas Neill, has added fuel to the furnace of the Socceroos’ FIFA World Cup exit by claiming the country’s development systems produce “robots” high on energy but short of goalscoring technique.

With the recriminations over Australia’s impotence in the final third in Russia raging, the former chief of the now defunct Canberra-based AIS finishing school for budding Socceroos insists an "obsession" with producing players "who run about like lunatics" in adherence to a methodology put in place by Dutchman Han Berger during his five-year reign as the FFA’s technical director from 2009-2014 is partly to blame for what ails Australia.

Famously hailed by the legendary Viduka as the best equipped coach to lead Australia, Smith believes a lack of focus on encouraging individual technique and a return to a landscape which sees youngsters playing the game at a competitive level for only six months each year have also contributed to a vacuum in the production of top-tier talent.

"Are we looking for strikers who are like Olympic athletes and can do shuttle runs ad-nauseam but may not be able to score goals?” Smith said.

"If someone else pops up do we just go ‘oh no he’s not going to fit the mould’.

"I’ve always been about tailoring the team’s playing style around the quality of the players. Right now in Australia we have people chasing the ball and running around like lunatics.

"We’re more concerned with that than we are about nurturing people who can put the ball in the net.

"The mentality is ‘yes, he can score a goal but he can’t chase people around all day, so I’m not even going to have a look at him’.

"That attitude that emanates all the way down to the junior teams. Why can’t we develop flexible players and allow our coaches to be flexible in their thinking. People are obsessed with systems.

"I’m beginning to hate that word. I’m sick of hearing it. Everybody has one but they never say what it is."

The AIS Centre of Excellence, under Smith and his predecessor Steve O’Connor, also produced Mark Bresciano, Brett Emerton and Mile Sterjovski, plus the likes of Ned Zelic before that.

It was closed in an FFA cost cutting measure last year.

Smith, 67, traces the beginning of the end of Australia’s ability to harbinger intuitive players of the ilk of Viduka and fellow great Harry Kewell to the arrival of Berger and his Dutch coaching manuals.

"When he rode into town he virtually kicked out everything that had been the standard procedure before," Smith said.

"What was implemented was a system where you blow a whistle and players all run to their starting positions like robots.

"It was the complete opposite to the philosophy that had been in place for 25 years, which was about developing individuals within the team structure.

"Decision-making was at the crux of everything. Players had the freedom to do pretty much what they wanted but within the realms of the structure.

"There was a consistent message from the state institutes up to the AIS.

"All the advances we made were just thrown out of the window. Culturally there was a mismatch.

"I tried to educate Han Berger on what had gone before but he never listened to a word I said," added Smith, at the time an analyst within the Socceroos set-up following his departure from the AIS.

"It was a case of ‘you’re going to have this, whether you need it or want it because I have it in my manual’."

The advent of the A-League in 2005 also played a part in the suffocation of the talent pathways, with Smith explaining: "Between 1992 and 2005 we had the opportunity for kids to virtually train and play all year around. All the NSL clubs had a youth teams.

"But that ended with the A-League and from that point on kids put their boots away and went surfing.

"So we went back to what we used to refer to as a six-month mentality - that was the situation in the 1970s when we all played in the winter.

"It’s hard to compete on the world level when you’re only training and playing six months of the year because nobody else does that.

"If you’re a national youth coach now and you want to find players it’s like a dogs breakfast. There’s nothing in place.

"There’s also not the same dedication to go out and play for the love of the game as there used to be ... kids just have too many other distractions."

Smith describes Daniel Arzani - an uncut Socceroos gem who began his football education on the streets of Iran - as "a breath of fresh air".

"But why aren’t there more like him?" he added.

"I think it’s because there is zero emphasis on teaching technique in our coaching programs and I don’t believe kids just become great technicians just through playing the game.

"At some stage you need to be able to refine technique. That requires a fair amount of ability from the coach; you don’t just inhale that through the atmosphere."
Damo Baresi
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It seems to me that:

1) The AIS was a pretty good finishing/development school for our young players of the NSL generation. 

2) That the AIS was axed by the FFA to save money. 

3) Nothing equal or better has replaced the AIS as a finishing/development school for our talented young players. 


So what is the solution??  
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Damo Baresi - 5 Jul 2018 12:45 AM
It seems to me that:

1) The AIS was a pretty good finishing/development school for our young players of the NSL generation. 

2) That the AIS was axed by the FFA to save money. 

3) Nothing equal or better has replaced the AIS as a finishing/development school for our talented young players. 


So what is the solution??  

There has been a huge discussion about this article in Australian Football.
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I've just read an article where Graham Arnold claims he has just seen a national training camp with 70 kids 16-17 years  old,  who've had plenty of exposure to  the FFA NC.

Arnie claims many of them can do things he has never seen Aussie players do before! He is excited about the future. He hopes these guys get opportunities to play pro football.
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and this is the problem, getting opportunities to play local pro football for starters.
Go beyond young man go far away, dig in have a go.

Edited
Last Year by LFC.
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LFC. - 14 Aug 2018 12:37 PM
and this is the problem, getting opportunities to play local pro football for starters.
Go beyond young man go far away, dig in have a go.

I heard an interesting podcast with Craig Foster and Mark Rudan discussing all the players they had coached good enough in their opinion to play HAL, but who have never received the opportunity.

Many have walked away from the game.
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Arnold’s comments about the next generation are interesting to say at least.

It seems like the current Joeys are the first generation to go through the whole FFA NC process from the discovery phase and up unlike the last generation which were the first to go through the SAP phase and now they are with the young Socceroos.
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Decentric - 15 Aug 2018 9:56 AM
LFC. - 14 Aug 2018 12:37 PM

I heard an interesting podcast with Craig Foster and Mark Rudan discussing all the players they had coached good enough in their opinion to play HAL, but who have never received the opportunity.

Many have walked away from the game.

Agree D, I don't blame them.
We seem to drive a % of possibles away, sure there are many in numbers but the trouble is there just isn't enough places/clubs spots to keep them happy and also provide game time.
After you have hit barrier after barrier and parents been driven up the wall as I mentioned elsewhere by un professional clubs/the costs/how they are treated comes to the point enough is enough - I know of a few good quality up and comers who might I ad had a run OS came back and either went back to club to play with mates or just gave it away.
Heck its competitive we all know that but its a viscous circle that imo having a better operations from top to bottom would reduce the drop off for starters. 

GO


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