Across all sports, we’ve seen both ageing teams and teams that rely on the vibrancy of youth. But which is the better quality to have?
Perhaps the answer is both, as some of the best teams we’ve seen are those that incorporate both experience and youth, reaping the benefits of both as they use one to compliment the other.
One team that doesn’t shy away from putting the ball into the hands of its younger players is the FNB Ikey Tigers, as several of their first team players were still eligible to play for their under-20 Young Guns side in the 2017 season.
“You need experience in every position, there’s no doubt about that,” said their coach, Christiaan Esterhuizen. “The more experience you have in your side, the more youth you’re able to bring in. For example, if you have two experienced guys, then you can maybe bring in three younger players and fit them in to an already established setup. It’s good to bring the youngsters up next to the experienced players.”
When naming young players in your squad, you’d expect to get a significant dose of excitement and energy. Alongside youth comes a willingness and determination to run hard and tackle even harder, to grab an opportunity with both hands and stake your claim. This can help any team improve, as long as it’s balanced out some experience. With more experience comes composure and the ability to navigate seemingly impossible situations simply because you’ve done so before.
The old heads in the team have been there and done that (and they’re still wearing the shirt), and they definitely provide a calming influence on the younger players who stand beside them. Coach Esterhuizen took note of how FNB Wits managed this effectively this season, as they have a few young players in their backline and quite a bit of experience amongst their players up front. Balance is essential.
In 2018 many youthful players of 2017 will be regarded as experienced, some will still be considered youthful, with less experience that some of the stalwarts. But most importantly, a balance of both seems to be the winning formula – one FNB UCT are on track to master.
By Wessley Thring