By Skip Fulton
Last week the South Melbourne FC Youth teams travelled to Dandenong City for matches in Round 13 of the Zagame’s NPL Youth leagues.
The youth teams were all successful rounding out an excellent result week for the club, undefeated at all levels in the NPL.
The results and goal scorers were:
U12s won 4:1, scorers: Adam Brigo x 4
U13s won 1:0, scorer: William Wilson
U14s won 4:0, scorers: Yannis Nisiotis x1, Tristan Meaker x1, Bradley Chick x1, Gera Bilyantsky x1
U15s won 4:1, scorers: Julian Zinni x3, Andre Polendakis x1
U16s won 5:2, scorers: Adrian Kovacevic x3, Nicholas Deris x1, Kirk Kyriakopoulos x1
U18s won 6:2, scorers: Stefan Valentini x3, Kalebh Horrocks x1, Edwin Stranghelin x1, x1 own goal
Next week the youth teams return home to Princes Park and Albert Park for the penultimate round of the season taking on Dandenong Thunder.
The smfc.com.au team have taken the opportunity recently to delve into the coaching strategies of our youth program to better understand the focus on player development. We spoke to a number of coaches to gain an appreciation of the foundation of the clubs success in delivering top quality players.
Matthew Borowicz (U12 coach)
At Princes Park in Caulfield on a wet and windy Sunday morning two weeks ago, smfc.com.au spoke to Matthew Borowicz about his U12 team and the approach to managing the youngest team in the NPL system.
Despite a loss to ladder leaders Box Hill, Borowicz reflected on the teams efforts by saying “I feel the boys did very well considering half the squad is U11s and some of our better players are pushed up to U13s.”
“The biggest positive from today is overall looking at the program, all of the boys are progressing at a very good rate. Football-wise we recognise we are doing a good job and the boys are picking up the South Melbourne way of playing.”
“Looking at all of the clubs we play across the board, not just U12s, we can definitely see we are a little bit different and do things our own way. Our program looks at each individual. Obviously every Sunday we want to win the game and the competition, but our long term goals are always on the individual and producing players that can challenge the seniors and give a headache to Chris Taylor.”
Samuel Young (U13s coach)
Samuel Young is the coach of the U13s and also calls Princes Park in Caulfield home for the boys. Similar to the rest of the coaching team, he has a close relationship with the teams in the age group above and below his own and sees this as a positive for player and team development. “The positive for us is there are four U12s that play in our team. That’s what we are trying to do at the club, we are trying to challenge the boys from the younger ranges to play in a tougher environment.”
“We can always improve, from the goal keepers all the way through to the strikers. I believe football is all about making the right decisions and we are helping our players from an early age learn how to make those decisions.”
Sasa Kolman (U10, U15 and U20s coach)
Sasa Kolman has a variety of coaching duties in the youth program and always speaks passionately about the boys and the future they have not only at South Melbourne but also in the broader football community.
Following the U20s 5-0 win over Hume City at Albert Park on the weekend, Kolman shared his experience with the smfc.com.au team. “South juniors I am really happy with, the kids love to play. We have some potential. At older age groups we have started to do some academy style strategies like elite squads, so we are taking care of our best players, which is really good. “
“If we look at the U20s, the oldest player is 18. We have 15, 16, 17 year olds playing in the U20s and we are winning games. What we are trying to do with all the age groups is to get them into the U20s and definitely then from the U20s into the Seniors.”
One of the differences between South Melbourne and other clubs on display in some youth matches is in the use of the substitutes on the bench. Other clubs make often make heavy use of the bench to rotate players on the field, in one such match there were sixteen changes made.
Kolman shared his thoughts on the practice indicating “we use our three to five substitutes and that is South Melbourne strategy. I come from Europe and that doesn’t happen there. You have three subs that’s it. If we want to prepare our boys for the Seniors, they need to start doing it now and learning to play that way. I am not a big fan of making subs all the time, in the younger youth that’s fine but from U15s you need to start playing serious football. Putting players in and out breaks the momentum and breaks the play so that’s the South Melbourne strategy.”
Chris Taylor (Head Coach)
Chris Taylor has an eye on all the teams in the youth ranks and leverages off the coaching team as a key component in developing players for the future.
After the Seniors recent win at Lakeside over Port Melbourne, smfc.com.au asked Taylor about the depth of playing talent at the club and the opportunities utilise key players from youth ranks to support the rotation of players in the Seniors. “We’d like to leverage off those players and one of the big things is players like Andy Kecojevic who’s been playing in the U20s. He’s 15 years old and we do want to give him some game time. Dion Kirk came on to play on Wednesday night and looks to be a very tidy player.”
The match at Lakeside was a scrappy affair in wet heavy conditions. Taylor reflected on ensuring younger players are exposed to the higher standards at the right time and not just for the sake of it. “The conditions tonight weren’t going to suit them to come on so it’s about picking and choosing the right moments to introduce them and sometimes the right games as well.”