Coaching Guides

There are many different types of midfielder, both in terms of their attributes and skill sets, and in the areas of the pitch they occupy. Below, we delve into those differences, and discuss how coaches can effectively develop midfielders in youth football environments. In This Article Understanding the Different Types of Midfielder Before developing midfielders, it’s important to understand the different roles in the middle of the pitch. To help, we’ll draw upon the work of Sunderland Head Coach Michael Beale, whose model of central…

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to player development. Young people develop at different ages and stages of participation, and at different rates throughout their journeys in the game. Therefore it’s vital that we individualise our approach to player development. In this article, Fulham FC coach Gabriel Flores explains how he uses strength-based training to help players maximise their potential. In This Article Understanding Strength-Based Coaching The best youth programmes seek to individualise the way they work with players. For Flores, one of the best ways…

Football can be a powerful evoker of emotions. But, as coaches, it’s vital that we remain calm around our players and don’t let emotional responses govern our actions. Below, coach and author David Mayer discusses the importance of emotional awareness, and how developing emotional control can help us to create better learning environments for our players. In This Article Being Aware of Your Emotions In all walks of life, we can benefit from understanding, and knowing how to react positively to, our emotions. This is…

Player Development is a long-term process, requiring time and patience. Below, we draw on the expertise of authors and experienced coaches Keith and David Mayer to examine how coaches can adequately support players throughout the duration of their developmental journeys. In This Article The Personal Element of Coaching The ‘soft skills’ of coaching are arguably the most important. To be truly effective in our roles, we must get to know our players, build positive relationships, and make them feel safe in our coaching environments. Crucially,…

An individual development plan is an important tool in helping a player to improve and appreciate their own progress. As coaches, we can use individual plans to help kids recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, identify the things they would like to improve on, and understand how they can do it. By working alongside players to create effective learning plans, we can facilitate self-reflection, encourage them to take ownership of their own journey in the game, and, most importantly, help them to develop as both…

In order to maximise their potential, and thrive under whatever challenges the game provides, players must be creative, independent decision-makers. Therefore, a crucial component of coaching is helping players learn to think and act for themselves. This, in turn, requires us to give them autonomy in their developmental journeys. Below, we discuss ways to empower the kids we coach, and encourage them to take ownership of their learning and development. In This Article Encouraging Accountability within Our Teams A key step to giving players ownership…

As coaches, our priority should be to engage every player and facilitate enjoyable sporting experiences for all. But this can be challenging in mixed-ability settings, where the needs of different individuals within our group are often more wide-ranging. Below, we discuss how coaches can manage the difference within teams, in order to give all players an appropriate challenge, and keep them involved, enthusiastic, and motivated. In This Article Connecting with Players To engage players, we must first appreciate that every child we coach is different,…

Playing models can provide a valuable framework around which to develop playing philosophies and teach key principles of the game. Below, we discuss a playing model developed as an example by the PDP team, and how it can guide coaches and programme administrators in building team identities and facilitating player development. In This Article Coaching Moments of the Game The PDP Playing Model works by breaking the game down into distinct moments: In Possession, Out of Possession, and Moments of Transition. This simplified approach enables…

To provide exceptional learning environments for young players, we need high-quality coaches. But coaches, like players, require guidance in order to develop and improve their performance. In fact, the principles behind coach and player development are often quite similar. In this article, Lee Hodge, experienced coach educator and Head of Academy Coaching at Plymouth Argyle FC, discusses these similarities, as he explains the fundamentals of coach development and capability building within a club setting. In This Article How to Effectively Support Coaches Keep It Simple…

At every level of the game, 1v1 duels are a fundamental part of soccer. So it’s vital that we help our players develop the skills to feel confident and thrive in these situations when they arise on gameday. Below, we look at the different kinds of 1v1 soccer skills, explain why they’re so important to player development, and outline some of the best 1 on 1 soccer training exercises. In This Article Why are 1 on 1 Soccer Skills So Important? Many people associate 1…

The Foundation Phase is a crucial time for young players. From the ages of eight- to 12-years-old, they will hopefully build the skills and confidence to underpin a lifetime of participation and further development in the game. As coaches, our job is to facilitate this process and provide varied and stimulating learning environments. Below, Lee Hodge, Head of Academy Coaching at Plymouth Argyle FC, shares his insights from the world of youth football, as he outlines his approach to developing 8-12 year-old players. In This…

Safety may not be the first characteristic we associate with exceptional coaching environments, but, for our players, a sense of security is essential to being able to learn effectively. Below, we draw upon the knowledge of several experts as we explain why safe coaching environments are so important, and how we can engender a culture of trust, security, and enjoyment within our teams and clubs. ] In This Article The Importance of Safe Environments If we’re to give kids the best chance of enjoying football…

Talent Identification is an essential component of youth football; in order to help players develop, we must identify both their potential and the environment(s) in which they can receive an appropriate variety of challenges. But is our current approach to Talent ID giving kids the best opportunities to enjoy the game and thrive? Below, Nick Levett, former Head of Talent ID at the English FA, discusses competing perceptions of talent, the potential pitfalls of assessing talent in younger age groups, and how we could improve…

Creating a soccer training schedule for an entire season takes careful planning. We need to consider the individuals we’re working with, our environment, what our players want to achieve, and then how we can help them accomplish their goals within those parameters. But the process isn’t necessarily as complicated as it seems. Below, we discuss the key components of a successful training program, how to adapt it when circumstances require, and how to create an appropriate training schedule for our own teams. In This Article…

Ball mastery and skill acquisition are crucial themes when coaching young players. But how complex should we make our practices when working with younger age groups? And how can we optimise these sessions to give kids the best developmental outcomes? Below, Gabriel Flores, Youth Development Phase Coach at Fulham FC, discusses the importance of technical coaching, its role within the wider context of player development, and how, by manipulating environmental constraints, we can use ball mastery sessions to help develop confident, adaptable players. In This…

The psychological components of coaching have a huge impact on the development of our players — both on and off the pitch. As coaches, we have a responsibility to understand these components, in order to provide supportive and constructive learning environments for the kids we work with. In this article, Dr. Suzanne Brown, Clinical Psychologist and Lead Psychologist at Sunderland AFC, explores some of the most important aspects of psychology in football, as she discusses emotional control, how to develop positive attitudes to mistakes, and…

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…

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…

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