By Horst Wein and Dermot Dalton

Today we begin Part 1 of a 9 week series on optimal youth development. We hope this checklist provides you with plenty of food for thought

Part 1 – THE PLAN
In order to ensure optimal development for kids, you must have a detailed or comprehensive plan or model to achieve your goals.

Constructing a development model requires that you:

1)    Decide upon a style of play you want to achieve with the kids. Modern football, as played by Spain, Barcelona and other progressive teams is based around constructive possession play – The Beautiful Game. Many institutions (organizations, schools and clubs) are now buying into this beautiful style of playing football.

2)    Use the Game Intelligence Approach to coaching football at all levels. Optimal development for modern football depends not only on physical, technical and tactical elements, but more importantly on deeper understanding and reading of the game and better decision making! Game intelligence consists of 4 phases which must be trained from the earliest ages – perception, understanding, decision making and execution. FUNiño, The Beautiful Game for Kids as the first building block in an optimal development model, ensures that football starts in the head and finishes with the feet, not the other way around.

Significant progress only occurs in football when
motor learning is combined with cognitive learning!”

Horst Wein

3)    Construct logical, progressive, age-appropriate stages of development to achieve the ultimate goal over a given period of time. This applies to the competitions that the children play as well as their training.

4)    Use a comprehensive training curriculum to cover all aspects of the game for each developmental stage in training. Each training module must relate directly to the age-appropriate competition game they play!

5)    Integrate all aspects of play (cognitive, tactical, technical and physical). In modern football, you must use training time efficiently and also ensure that what the children are learning directly related to the game. This is best achieved by a game-oriented programme in training  rather than isolating the individual elements as in normally the case using drills. The Game must literally be the teacher, this ensures:

  • Greater understanding of the game of football and ability to “read” the game and make good decisions. (Game Intelligence!)
  • Greater transfer of skills into the real game.
  • An all-round development of players.
  • Greater efficiency as the physical and technical elements are catered for as well as the tactical and cognitive.

 “Traditional coaching had been entirely teacher-directed and largely
technique-orientated, whilst today emphasis is directed on
tactical problem solving through games play”      

  Lynne Spackmann

6)    Make sure that training is enjoyable. Put simply, games are more fun than drills and physical exercises and naturally more motivating for young players!

7)    Have patience!  Coaches, and parents in particular, must allow their children sufficient time to master each step along the long way to becoming a mature happy human being as well as a good footballer.

“Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults.
If we try to alter this natural order, they will reach adulthood prematurely,
but with neither substance nor strength.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Horst Wein model has been proven, refined and expanded over the last 30 years with the feedback of over 12,000 coaches globally. It has been the official model in Spain for more than 20 years and is rapidly growing  around the world, especially in countries like Germany and Italy and in South America.

Next week we will compare a development philosophy versus winning at all costs and the implications for youth development. In subsequent weeks we will look in more detail at other important factors for optimal development.
For more information email dermot@thebeautifulgame.ie