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Player Development Model

What is a player development model?  Is it important?  A development model is quite simply a pathway of steps in sequence to guide development over a period of time.  In sports and in youth soccer, the focus is player development, and planning for training in all stages of the player’s growth.  According to Dr. Matthew J. Robinson, Professor of Sport Management at University of Delaware, it is a framework for accountability and aligning training, games and programs, and also an expression of a philosophy for an organization.  In other words, it is a road map developing youth soccer players for today, tomorrow, next month, next year and many years from now.

So who has player development models?  Effectively, a lot of people.  Below is a partial list of documents that are development models, are drawn from them or connect closely to them:

  • US Soccer Curriculum
  • US Soccer Best practices
  • US Youth Soccer Player Development Model
  • US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual
  • Canadian Soccer Association Long-Term Player Development (LTPD)
  • New York Red Bull Red Print
  • Liverpool FC Academypdm1
  • National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Player Development Model
  • Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) Player Development Model
  • Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer (EPYSA) Intramural Curriculum and Training Plans
  • German Football Association (DFB) Talent Development
  • Private company websites offering curriculum materials, such as Inside Soccer
  • Football Development Model by Horst Wein (Natural Development, Game Intelligence)


What all these sources have in common is that they define the developmental stages (player age ranges) and the approaches and methods used.  They differ in user cost, focus, complexity, ease of understanding, length, philosophy, visibility, and availability with limited distribution.  For the grassroots programs and coaches, any of these differences can be daunting.  Resources that are too hard to use for any reason, go unused.



MSYSA has elected to use the NSCAA player development model as the framework for grassroots programming.  The NSCAA model was created in sync with US Soccer’s guidelines, but is also one of the very best at reducing length and complexity into a development framework that is easy to understand and use by grassroots coaches.  (We must add that Red Bull’s Red Print is also very well done, as is Horst Wein’s early groundbreaking philosophy in Football Development (1988), and later in Game Intelligence (2004).  The NSCAA development model is also widely supported by extensive coaching education materials at the grassroots level more so than anyone else, and at a cost-effective, high quality level.

The NSCAA Player Development Model components are:

Player Development Model

The overall structure

Principles of Play

Simplified description of common attacking and defending principles

Player Characteristics (Stages 1-5)

Common player characteristics for each stage

Coaching Formula (Stages 1-5)

Guide to provide coaches with the recipe for producing the optimum learning environment for players when conducting practices

Player Skills Competency Matrix

The Competency Matrix helps coaches to

know when players should be ‘Introduced’ to a skill/concept and when players should be expected to demonstrate ‘Competency’.

Most unique and useful of these is the player competency matrix.  This is a clean, easy to use skills based matrix that helps coaches of any experience level understand what is important and appropriate for their teams age in planning and conducting practices.

The player development model as a roadmap for grassroots coaches is the first core component of the entire framework.  Coaching education flows from it, and the curriculum toolset is aligned with it.