The Blog

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…

Is psychology being embraced in coaching environments? Many modern coaching courses and clubs have improved their advocacy of sports psychology, but is there still a stigma or reluctance to hone in on the psychological component of coaching? New PDP contributor, Blaine McKenna shares his research after a survey of coaches in Northern Ireland working in the game as to how they engage with psychology in their coaching environment. This is the first in a series of blogs relating to the findings from my MSc research which…

How can parents and coaches help young players overcome a perfectionist mindset? Chief Content Officer at Changing the Game Project, Reed Maltbie shares a fantastic article around some of the modern challenges parents and coaches face with perfectionism on the rise in a status-driven society. Recently, Changing the Game Project received a question that we get often, so we thought it would make a great blog: “I was wondering if you could provide some advice. My son is 8 years old and plays on a…

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.

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,…

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