Curriculums can be an invaluable source of guidance for coaches. They help us to cover a complete range of themes and topics, provide a framework for planning sessions across an entire season, and facilitate the consistent application of ideas and playing philosophies in all teams within a club or programme. Below, we explore the benefits of using a curriculum, and discuss ways that coaches and programme directors can implement curriculums within their clubs.

In This Article

Creating a Framework for Session Design

The strictness with which we adhere to curriculums, and how we schedule learning around specific themes, will vary from one programme to the next. The optimum curriculum design will depend upon our environment; for example, while some clubs may decide to cover different themes each session and return to them periodically, others might interweave themes within their curriculum, and coach multiple topics simultaneously.

“We use blocks of work,” says Lee Hodge, Head of Academy Coaching at Plymouth Argyle FC. “We’ll work on a certain technique or principle for a block of time before moving onto the next one, and really track the players’ learning as we go.”

“At my club, we’ve designed a programme based on four moments of the game — Control in Possession, Defending, Transition, and Creating and Scoring,” adds PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “Coaches have autonomy to work within that programme, but coaching around those moments should be present.”

Importantly, curriculums also help programme directors ensure that kids in all teams and age groups receive a balanced mix of learning opportunities. “If we didn’t have a syllabus, the coach’s bias might affect what the players learn,” explains Hodge. “For instance, maybe they like teaching passing, so only coach that. But we want players to have a ‘balanced diet’. Syllabuses enable us to give them that throughout the season.”

Remembering the Individual

Crucially, no matter how we use a curriculum, we should always strive to individualise our approach to working with players. “We must remember to make training bespoke for the individual,” says Hodge. “What one player requires to train might be different to what another player needs. But if we’re too focussed on our syllabus, we might forget that it’s about the individual.”

To avoid making this mistake, Hodge advises coaches to constantly monitor and track players’ progress and levels of engagement across a season: “Track what their key takeaways are, what they enjoy, and the things you see sticking on game day. It’s really important to track their learning so that you know that the things you’re doing are effective.

“I encourage coaches to make a report at the end of each block of work; what were their practice designs each week? What language did they use? What did they work on with each individual?

“These questions help them to think about why they’re putting on a session, and also gain an understanding of how each individual is doing.”

Giving Coaches Freedom

In addition to individualising our approach to working with players, it’s also important to give coaches freedom to express themselves. “There’s a concept of control that exists in coaching — reflected in things like interventions, sideline behaviour, and even programme design,” explains Wright. “Programme design is us controlling things — establishing a structure for weeks into the future. But there needs to be freedom within that for coaches to deliver their sessions.”

Of course, Wright continues, the art is finding a balance between structure and disorder: “The challenge is that abandoning curriculums completely can create chaos. If every team at your club is working to their own plan, or focussing solely on winning their game at the weekend, it’s probably not conducive to developing players. So there needs to be some structure, but we must be careful not to become overly structured.”

To help strike this balance, Wright advises programme designers to consider the most important aspect of any session: “Do kids always have that enjoyment?” he asks. “If we’re running regimented, three-part practices every time, do the players get that buzz? Maybe not.

“That’s why I encourage coaches to change things up, and not just stick to prescribed sessions. First and foremost, we want the kids to have fun and love coming to training — every single time.”

The Key Points

  • Curriculums help us to give players a balanced schedule of learning over the course of a season.
  • Our curriculum, and how we cover different themes within it, should depend upon the context of our environment.
  • When using a curriculum, it’s vital that we still tailor our coaching to the needs of individual players.
  • Coaches should be given freedom to express themselves when working to a curriculum.
  • No matter how structured our programmes, we must always prioritise the enjoyment and engagement of our players.

Image Source: South_agency from Getty Images Signature

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