The Blog

A broad range of coaching content from our network of expert contributors.

Player Development Project sits down with Andrew Watt, Youth Development Phase Manager at Fulham FC, to discuss how the Premier League club supports players across the U9-U16 age groups. Below, Andrew provides insights into the Fulham Academy’s principles, his views on talent identification, the different approaches to coaching kids from U9s all the way through to U16s, and how to manage the transitions to different game formats. He also offers practical advice on session design, the merits of isolated and opposed practices, and how to…

PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright & PDP Technical Advisor Dan Wright discuss 9v9 formations in youth soccer In many countries, 9v9 soccer represents the final step on the way to 11-a-side games. But while this game format is an opportunity to prepare players for larger-sided matches on bigger pitches, we should be careful not to neglect our players’ individual development for the sake of playing a specific formation. Instead of seeking the “best” 9v9 formation, we might be better off thinking about the best formation for…

Click here and enter your details for early access to the course. Over the past few months we’ve been busy creating an online coaching course which we believe is missing from the world of coach education. In order to help the majority of coaches (and therefore, the majority of players), we need to arm volunteer coaches with everything they need to get started putting on great sessions for 6-12 year old players. We know that the majority of coaches out there are volunteers – first…

PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright & PDP Technical Advisor Dan Wright discussing the benefits of playing multiple sports. It’s sometimes suggested in the sporting world that, if you want to make it at an elite level, you should specialize early and not play multiple sports during childhood. But does this theory hold up to scrutiny? An increasing number of coaches, recruiters, and other experts are arguing the opposite: that playing multiple sports is not only beneficial for the all-round development of children — as people, not…

PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright & Positive Psychology expert Lara Mossman discussing how to control emotions in sports. We can’t expect youth soccer players to show great emotional control all of the time. It’s sometimes easy to forget, but they’re not mini-adults — they don’t have the same capacity to control their emotions as we do, and we shouldn’t expect them to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help. We can still teach our young players how to understand and manage their emotions. And this education…

PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright & Former New Zealand Women’s Head Coach Tony Readings, discussing the positives and potential pitfalls for girls in mixed soccer. Is it better for female soccer players to play in boys’ teams? Playing mixed soccer can provide both technical benefits and social challenges. As coaches, we must strike a balance that pushes our players without hindering their development or enjoyment of the game. Whether it’s best for a girl to play on boys’ teams depends upon a variety of factors that…

This blog contains two videos of a modified 3v3. In this session, PDP Lead Researcher & AIK Academy Coach, James Vaughan changes task constraints and encourages player reflection to create opportunities for learning with space for creative expression. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to work with just 6 players for a whole session. This is something I really enjoy after years of coaching futsal. However, working with small numbers of players for a whole session can be daunting. In this blog, I want to…

Rob Sherman explains the player-centred approach and asks whether it is exclusive to youth development. Rob has over 30 years’ experience, starting in amateur leagues before graduating to be an Area Coach for the Welsh FA and coach of Wales U16. After several years as the Welsh National Player Development Manager and Technical Director, in 2007 he became High Performance Manager at New Zealand Football and coached at FIFA events and two Olympics. After establishing the Asia Pacific Football Academy, Rob returned to New Zealand…

How do you differentiate between each individual’s learning experience within your group? No single player’s experience is the same. In this article, Reed Maltbie discusses how you can ensure that you understand the needs of every player in your group. “This is easy. Watch me again. This is how you do it.” It was getting more difficult to mask my frustration. I had been trying to teach my 11-year-old son how to do long division for about 45 minutes now, and my patience was wearing…

Dane Coles is arguably one of the world’s best and most dynamic rugby players. In the combative position of hooker, Coles regularly goes head to head with front rowers around the world in both Super Rugby and International Rugby and is a Rugby World Cup Winner. In this article, PDP Editor, Dave Wright spoke to Dane about his player development journey, not specialising too young, the types of coaches he responds to and the value of mental preparation in performance. Dane Coles grew up in a…

Gratitude is a trait we should all be aiming to develop in the young players we work with. Developing better people first is a fundamental belief at PDP. So as coaches, how do we approach this? Mental performance expert John Haime discusses how players can shift their mindset and enhance their own experience through taking a grateful approach to their own development, outlining how a simple emotion can elevate performance   What are you grateful for? That might seem like a strange question to ask…

In this article rugby coach and researcher, Jonny McMurtry discusses the importance of connection between athlete and coach taking a deep dive into an approach that is needs based and not just athlete-centred. Firstly, I hope this blog post finds you, your family and friends in good health; this is strange times and new territory for us all and I hope we can follow the advice of health professionals and leaders of our countries to “flatten the curve” and keep our communities safe and well,…

Eusebio Sacristan had a playing career at Barcelona alongside a golden generation and under the guidance of Johan Cruyff. He now manages Real Sociedad in La Liga, a big challenge but one he is embracing and enjoying. With the help of translator, Brooke Duder, Player Development Project caught up with Eusebio to discuss his journey as a young player and now top flight manager.

Ben Bartlett, Senior Youth Coach Educator at the Football Association, gives some fascinating real-life examples to explain the importance of aligning a team’s ideal model of performance with the capabilities and behaviours of its players and the practice of its coaching. There is a Japanese proverb, highlighted by James Kerr in his book ‘Legacy’, which states that “Vision without action is a day-dream; action without vision is a nightmare”. With this in mind, lecturer and coach developer Bob Muir proposed the model below, asking coaches…

In this article, AFC A licensed coach Andrew Oakley shares his perspective on a significant issue in Australian grassroots football. Andrew discusses the risks of trials, recruitment and talent identification, outlining the importance of belonging and cohesion in a young footballers developmental journey. Why do we keep shuffling the cards in hope of a ‘winning’ hand? At the end of every season in Australia’s youth football landscape, a ritual is repeated that isn’t doing our clubs or players any favours. The annual circus of retention,…

In this article Things to consider when coaching U8 soccer Soccer Training and The Four Corner Model Technical and tactical Psychological Physical Social What outcomes do we want to achieve? Picking the right drill and using different game formats Embrace the chaos: Fun soccer drills and challenging games The value of great communication U8 soccer training: The key points U8 soccer is an important time in the development of young players. In this early stage of the Foundation Phase, many kids are still discovering the…

The Feyenoord Academy, or Varkenoord as it is known in Holland as one of the premier developmental environments in the country. With famed graduates such as Robin Van Persie, Royston Drenthe, Jordie Clasie & Leroy Fer (to name a few) the club has won the Rinus Michels Award for best academy in the country multiple times.   Player Development Project was interested to know more about just what goes on at Feyenoord so we caught up with foundation phase coach and brain behaviour and learning…

In this article, PDP Coaching Advisor, James Coutts shares some of his favourite passing and possession practices which can be adapted for players across all age groups. Like many coaches I love using rondos or small-sided positional games consistently in my sessions. There are so many variations that can be used, each with a variety of outcomes. I have implemented all the sessions below with a range of age groups from six-years-old right up to senior players, adapting the practices to suit the group in…

Popular searches: defending, finishing, 1v1, playing out from the back, working with parents