Study aim: due to a series of failures and the drastic reduction in the quality of Hungarian soccer, greater emphasis should be put on coaches’ professional development and talent development programs. The aim of this study was to present the newly established Hungarian Soccer Development Program that focuses on the development of youth talent.
Methods: document analysis and in-depth interviews were utilized during the research process. All Program leaders were interviewed in the Hungarian Soccer Development Program (N = 5). The interviews were preceded by thorough document analysis of the Program and the new strategies and plans of the Hungarian Football Federation. The authors systematically examined the Program and were able to prepare systematically for in-depth interviews whose focus was the specific areas that weren’t present in the document.
Results: the main aim of this Program is to give a mass base for the selection of soccer talent and to promote the development of Hungarian soccer in the long run. The measurement and evaluation systems chosen for the identification is a complex process: children go through several selection phases until they achieve the best in their age cohort. For the successful realization of this Program, there is a need for a change in attitude and also for the development of a mass base in Hungarian soccer. The number of players under the age of 18 years should reach a solid 200,000 players. Those who established the Program also introduced a control and assessment system to improve efficiency, which helps to keep the different programs and sessions of the Program at a high level. Coaches’ education and professional development is also in a focus: the Program’s content and methodology is specific for the age cohort and constantly changing for better practices.
Discussion and conclusions: the Program reinforced opinions that emphasized that selection is a long-term and systematic process in which regular tests and measurements are needed. Gifted young soccer players should not be selected simply for their physical outlook but rather on those conditions that are difficult to measure: the way they play the game, their skills, and their motivation for success. Talent selection and management should depend on their individual and team abilities and skills, technical skills, and assertiveness. Only those coaches with high-level understanding, competencies, and motivation can make changes in the sport.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.