The Blog

How do you communicate with your players? In this article PDP Technical Advisor, Dan Wright shares some fascinating reflections and advice for coaches on how to effectively question and communicate with players to make sure they genuinely think about solutions within the game. Over the last few months I have found myself using the question used as this article’s title a lot. I’ve done so with an aim to challenge players to think about their game, or perhaps more specifically what they had noticed whilst…

In this article PDP Coaching Advisor, James Coutts discusses the value of ‘unit coaching’ or ‘position specific coaching’ and how you can incorporate this specific coaching model into your sessions. What is unit training? When discussing unit training we are considering a unit that’s position specific within the team, for example ‘defenders’ can be a unit, ‘wingers’ can be a unit and so on. Depending on what shape you play could have an impact, it could mean you’re working with a ‘back 3’ as your…

Michael Beale has had the privilege of coaching some of the best young talent in England from the very beginning of their developmental journey. A UEFA A license holder with 10 years experience at Chelsea FC before making the move to Liverpool FC where he now manages the U21s, Michael gives us an in depth…

PDP Lead Researcher James Vaughan highlights recent experiences adapting to new environments to discuss the research around affordances, forms of life and scorpion kicks. At PDP we often talk about the importance of the player development environment. We encourage coaches, clubs and parents to take a holistic view – a view that considers the immediate and long-term influence of cultures, societies, organisational structures and global systems. However as well as this zoomed out view, a holistic approach also incorporates a deep appreciation of the environment. The…

Where does creativity come from? In this blog PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan discusses Yannick Bolasie’s infamous ‘360 flick’ and explores it’s story. Bolasie himself highlights the playful environment from which this creativity emerged and Vaughan discusses this in relation to the latest research. Four years ago I was asked a question that has stuck in the back of my mind. I was in Melbourne studying a Masters in Sports Coaching. The thesis was called ‘Developing Creative Football Players: A Psychological Needs Perspective’ and a colleague, friend, mentor…

A young player will experience many challenges on their player development journey, many of which are outside of their control. PDP Editor & UEFA A licensed academy coach, Dave Wright highlights the importance of truly understanding the player as an individual, outlining the benefits of an approach that helps us understand how constraints shape players’ non-linear development. As adults we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about systems, statistics, formations, results, tactics, outcomes and all the organisational factors that go on when working in a…

PDP Technical Advisor, Dan Wright examines one of the greatest midfield players to ever play the game, outlining why a long term view to player development is essential to ensuring every player has a chance to fulfil their potential and more. He doesn’t look like a footballer. He’s too small, too weak, he can’t move. It’s a warm May evening. As you approach the ground the traffic gets heavier and fans start to fill the streets: a kaleidoscope of blue, red and yellow everywhere you…

It is difficult to overstate just how much of an influence Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff has had on the sport. From his time on the pitch, starring for Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national side, to his time in management at the same institutions, Cruyff has always been at the cutting edge of football development. Player Development Project spoke to Cruyff in 2015 about his coaching philosophy and more. Winner of the Ballon d’Or an incredible three times, Cruyff started his footballing career at…

Have you had a conversation with your players about why they play football? What is it that motivates them to turn up to training, sometimes three or more times a week, no matter what the conditions? In this article, resident positive psychology expert Lara Mossman looks at the ways in which coaches can empower players to become self-motivated. It’s likely that across your team there will be a variety of different reasons why players turn up. Some may not want to be there at all…

The power of storytelling in human evolution and development is often overlooked in sport. PDP Editor and UEFA A licensed coach, Dave Wright discusses how the stories we share and our ability to change the narrative can shape the future of player development. At the time of writing, Player Development Project is almost four-years-old. During our time as a team and an ever-growing network of contributors, we have been fortunate enough to interview and connect with hundreds of experts in a variety of fields in…

In this article, PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan reflects on how a history of linear, data-driven approaches are limiting player development. James emphasises the importance of understanding the complexity that comes with human development. Last month I finally published a scientific paper, Developing Creativity to Enhance Human Potential in Sport: A Wicked Transdisciplinary Challenge. After rejections and reviews, the paper was finally out there. Cue scientific revolution and practical evolution – next step Nobel prize ceremony in December. Not quite. Even so, I was excited…

Resident positive psychology expert, Lara Mossman discusses how to create positive sports environments for developing players. In this challenging article Lara discusses what role coaches can play in trying to apply positive psychology to their approach and whether traditional coach education has done enough to arm coaches with the right skills to do so. Does positive youth development have a place in football coaching? From coaching, parenting and players there is a growing interest in bringing learnings from positive psychology to the sports field. Before…

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…

Ego. Why does it dominate coaching? Player Development Project Editor & academy coach, Dave Wright challenges the place of ego in coaching questioning where it comes from, the difficulty of removing it and accepting that as a coach, you may not have all the answers. “The kumara (sweet potato) does not need to say how sweet he is.” It’s game day. A cold winter’s morning, you look outside, it’s gloomy, but there’s no rain. Game on. You’ve planned and prepared for weeks through a gruelling pre-season….

Good relationships provide a powerful foundation for coaching. Connecting is something you do and can practice getting better at, particularly the art of listening well. 5 Barriers to Connecting Think of connecting as a soft skill:  A sideshow to the main task of preparing to win. Just be friendly: “Banter” is sufficient. A good relationship means you are always relaxed and smiling together. Talk only about sport: Ignore their lives, relationships, dreams and world outside of sport. Solve a problem, offer reassurance or give advice…

7v7 Soccer is another crucial step on the way from small-sided games to 11v11. But as players get slightly closer to the adult game, how much should coaches think about shapes and systems? Below, we discuss what makes a good formation, explain how to use team shape to facilitate player development, and consider some of the best 7v7 soccer formations. In This Article Choosing the Best 7v7 Soccer Formations Remembering the Individual Using 7v7 Soccer to Provide Mixed Playing Experiences 7 on 7 Soccer Formations:…

This paper outlines the connections between three problems which are deeply interlinked, growing in influence, and shaping many aspects of social and cultural life, including football: The overly-competitive and anxiety evoking cultures of modern work & educational settings – shaping football club structures and traditional coaching practice Social and environmental challenges – from structural racism to climate change football is part of these challenges and may offer solutions Deteriorating mental health is on the rise among football players and in wider society – something that…

Self-organisation was a key process discussed at the Complex Systems in Sports Congress at Camp Nou in Barcelona. PDP co-founder James Vaughan discusses the importance of understanding and observing self-organisation with video and reflections from Barcelona and Sweden. It was the end of the day and that meant free play. However, this freedom felt very restricted, very one-directional, very narrow. It was almost as if the players had blinkers on; constrained to only see forwards. Dribble forward, tackle, loose ball, transition! Dribble forward, tackle, loose ball, transition! Dribble…

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