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The 4 Phases of Player Development – The Full Bloom

U-19 The Full BloomThe Elite Phase: The Full Bloom (U-19)

Development of functional and team play:

Fulfillment of a player’s potential depends on his or her own efforts, the support of teammates and the unselfish guidance of her coach. He or she must be exposed to a playing and training environment, which extends her mental, physical, tactical and technical capabilities to the limit. He or she must have a sound understanding of the game’s principles and concepts. Players should show emotional stability when confronted with pressure situations. Demanding and challenging training sessions and matches are a must.

Coach must be: Charismatic, well informed, up to date, experienced, knowledgeable, articulate, a disciplinarian. No doubts about his/her authority; managerial know-how.


  • Mastered skills leading to artistry. All at speed under match conditions, demanding excellence. Individual skill covered during warm-up and competitive situations.
Increase tactical speed (decision-making) with increased pressure and competition. Having the ability to change and adapt to game dynamics, up or down a goal, management of the clock and flow of the game.


In attack: A good deal of time spent in functional training environments

  • Decisions based on thirds of the field
  • Comfort in playing in the different areas of the field/team (back, middle, front, center, wide).
  • Confidence to hold possession as an individual
  • Solve problems at the individual level.

In defense: Clear understanding of how the quality of pressure affects the ability of the team to defend

  • Decisions based on thirds of the field.
  • Comfort at playing two different positions

Small group:

In attack:

  • Improvisation/deception encouraged
  • Advanced understanding of combination play and how to combine to break down a defense
  • Balance of possession and penetration with a purpose to score goals
  • Recognize opportunities to penetrate by a variety of means
  • Attacking in groups of three (forwards, midfielders and defenders)

In defense:

  • Pressure, cover, balance
  • Control of the game’s speed and direction due to defending decisions
  • Recognition of double team opportunities
  • Defending in groups of three (forwards, midfielders and defenders)

Team: Understanding of lines and linkage between lines. Understand positional and team needs.

In attack:

  • Comfort with direct and indirect styles of play
  • Combination play with tactical implications
  • Sustained possession as a means to break down the opponent’s defense
  • Speed of play; the game is faster and more physical
  • Creativity, quality of final ball to beat backs
  • Understanding how and when to counterattack
  • Serving runners in the box
  • Organizing the box with runners (penetration, width and support)
  • Decisions based on thirds of the fields
  • Set plays (80 percent success rate where we get: 1) goal; 2) shot on goal; or 3) corner kick

In defense:

  • Comfort with “high pressure” and “delayed high pressure” styles
  • Understanding of zonal and man-to-man marking play
  • Goalkeeper as the last defender
  • Keeping good team compactness
  • Stopping the counterattack
  • Decisions based on thirds of the field and different systems of play
  • Pressing (when and where to pressure, channel and dictate defensively)

Systems: The recommended system – all. Based on a variety of factors (individual/team abilities, opponent, field conditions, game management etc.). The Women’s National Team, U-21, U-19 and U-16 National Teams predominantly employ three forwards using a 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 system.

Note: A great deal of coaching/teaching within 9 v. 9 and 11 v. 11 games.


Fitness work with and without the ball

  • Flexibility – static stretching after training/matches
  • Dynamic flexibility – partner stretching
  • Importance of discipline for warm-up and cool-down
  • Agility – with and without the ball
  • Endurance – aerobic and anaerobic
  • Strength – upper and lower body. Core strength/stability
  • Balance
  • Nutrition – proper diet pre-game, post-game, tournaments
  • Prevention and care of injuries
  • Importance of rest/recovery – schedule issues relative to the physical demands
  • Increased concentration
  • Leadership and increased player responsibility
  • Discipline
  • Accountability
  • Goal setting
  • Respect for the game
  • Self-confidence, self-motivation, goal setting
  • Vary program – satisfy players’ urge for competition. Will to win.
  • Mental toughness/competitive mentality
  • Establish pre-practice and pre-game routine (as individuals and teams)
  • 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
BackgroundPhase 1Phase 2 | Phase 3

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