UEFA A licensed coach & PDP Editor, Dave Wright discusses why an individual approach to player development is crucial after recently presenting at a conference in Australia. The presentation was based on his philosophy, PDP research and experience from his time at Fulham FC.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Football Federation Victoria (the state governing body for football in Victoria) to present at their State Coaching Conference in Melbourne. I was given freedom to choose a topic, but encouraged to push a message which would shake things up a little bit. Throughout this article, I will share several the slides from the presentation – and look out for the full version in Masterclass video form in the New Year.

Having only recently arrived in Australia after almost 5 years in England, I have spent a good amount of time meeting with local clubs, A League clubs and staff at Football Federation Australia, discussing the local landscape and some of the cultural challenges that player development in Australia is facing.

Under the guidance of National Coach Education Manager, Sean Douglas and following excellent work in previous years from people like Kelly Cross (Sydney FC Academy Manager) & Rob Sherman (Former New Zealand Football Technical Director), Australia has been forging a strong path in coach development for a long time, running excellent courses and always adapting their approach in line with the latest research. The next challenge is to ensure that coaches take this knowledge and embrace the concepts we promote heavily at PDP into their own environments.


Since arriving in Melbourne, some concerns had been expressed to me via a number of the aforementioned conversations with coaches locally. Some people spoke of a win at all costs mentality still dominating NPL (National Premier League) football across age groups. League tables and results are apparently still the dominant measure of success and stories of players being locked in, or pigeon holed into positions at a young age to ensure results for clubs have all been mentioned.

Accordingly, based on the discussions I had, I decided that sharing my own experiences and philosophy whilst tapping into some of the previous 3 years research via PDP and citing our contributors was essential. I also wanted to share some of my experience from the world of academy football in England with Brentford FC & Fulham FC. Whilst the academy system is not perfect, there are so many good clubs running great programs giving talented football players the best opportunity possible. With the permission of Fulham FC Academy Manager, Huw Jennings to share some club insights, I put together a 45-minute presentation combining PDP research and Fulham FC as a case study on how to develop the individual.

The key topics within the presentation were:

  • The danger of ego
  • The environment
  • Socio-cultural constraints
  • Task constraints
  • Fulham FC as a case study
  • Individual learning plans
  • Session design and game preparation
  • Recreating street football

Get Over Yourself

For many of you who have been loyal PDP readers for a long time, you would have heard me speak and write about the dangers of ego. I decided to start by challenging the 140 coaches in the room to check their egos at the door, to get over themselves. Why do we coach? Surely, it’s to facilitate an environment for players to get better and have a positive sporting experience? This challenge laid down, I proceeded to outline the environmental factors such as family, football club, school life, home life and more. These socio-cultural constraints must be understood to ensure we know and understand our players well enough to have a positive effect. By painting this picture I aimed to provide a holistic view, citing the work of PDP contributors like Ben Bartlett, Mark O’Sullivan, Paul McGuinness and of course, our own Lead Researcher, James Vaughan.


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Dave Wright
Dave Wright
Dave is a UEFA A licensed coach and Co-Founder of Player Development Project. He has 15 years’ coaching experience from high school first teams through to professional academy football in England, where he worked in London for both Brentford FC & Fulham FC. Dave has also worked in elite development at state level in Australia and New Zealand. Check out Dave’s eBook, Performance Soccer Coach: A Guide to Positive Player Development on Amazon.
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