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The 4 Phases of Player Development

The 4 Phases of Player Development – “The Commitment”

U-14 The Commitment StageThe Formal Phase: The Commitment (U-14)

Development of individual skills – individual and small group tactics:

Adult standards and formal rules become applicable. The pace of development quickens at this time due to the acceleration of physical and mental maturation. The demands of skill training as well as training loads should increase, thus provoking improvement with mental toughness, concentration and diligence. Awareness of tactics within the game becomes an important facet of the learning process. Players tend to be self-critical and rebellious, but have a strong commitment to the team.

Coach must be: A strong personality with some soccer knowledge. The coach should be enthusiastic and patient but demanding.


  • Build on the base.
  • Emphasize the development of individual skills under the pressure of time, space, and an opponent.
  • Continue to increase technical speed.
  • Dribbling: Encourage the players to take opponents on 1 v. 1. Teach feints/moves, how to keep possession, how to shield and spin turns.
  • Receiving: Emphasize a quality first touch. Have players take balls out of the air and work on turning. Players should use all surfaces and learn to receive the ball on the run.
  • Shooting: Work on shooting on the run, on the turn, from all angles, from crosses and from volleys.
  • Passing: Work on short, long, bent, crossed, driven and chipped passes using all surfaces. All should be learned on the run.
  • Heading: Work on going to goal (shoot/glance), to pass and to clear.
  • Tackling: Emphasize the proper techniques.
  • Increase tactical speed (decision making under pressure).

Individual: Work on 1 v. 1, in attack and defense.

  • In attack: Teach players to keep possession but encourage risk taking and taking players on in the proper areas of the field.
  • In defense: Teach how to apply proper pressure (in front and behind), how to channel players, when to use immediate chase and how to use angles of pressure.

Small Group: Continue with 2 v. 1, 2 v. 2, 3 v. 2, 3 v. 3, 4 v. 2 and 4 v. 4.

  • In attack: Teach to keep possession, support, combination play (including the wall pass, takeover, overlap, the double pass). Introduce the concepts of width, depth and penetration. Begin work on crossing with proper runs in the box. Start to demonstrate simple set plays.
  • In defense: Players should be introduced to angle and distance of cover, defensive balance, delay and pressing as a group.


  • In the attack: Teach players how to keep possession and how to play the ball away from pressure. They should know how to maintain balance in the chosen system. Introduce interchange of positions during the run of play. Encourage attackers to take defenders on in the final third. The keeper becomes an integral part of the attack (play balls back to the keeper). Players should still play a variety of positions.
  • In defense: Players should learn to maintain good “shape.” Zonal concepts should be introduced and should include knowing when to “delay” or “step.” Clear decision on where the “line of confrontation” should be is important at this level. Coaches should teach how to maintain good pressure and cover in all three thirds of the field.
  • System: The recommended system for player and team development is a 3-4-3.

Note: There should be a great deal of coaching /teaching in 4 v. 4 and 7 v. 7 games.


  • All fitness work should be done with the ball
  • Flexibility – static stretching and dynamic flexibility
  • Agility – Coordination with and without the ball
  • Speed
  • Strength – non-weight bearing, core strength and stability
  • Endurance
  • Balance
  • The game should remain fun and enjoyable. Players should have a passion for the game
  • Imagination /creativity
  • Increase demands
  • Establish training targets
  • Maintain discipline
  • Encourage players/teams to watch professional and National Team games on television

The Game:

  • 11 v. 11
Click to read the other phases of player development
Background | Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3 | Phase 4

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