A young player in the Youth Development Phase runs forward and keeps possession of the ball during a training activity.

Youth Development Phase ethos

12 - 16

Football is a game that everyone can play, a game ‘For All’. The role of the coach is to ensure a positive experience of the game for all players.

We must never lose sight of the spirit of the game: a game of joy, skill, craft and imagination, as well as resilience and competitiveness.

All the Youth Development Phase DNA content is based on the following 3 elements:

  • Love the ball; love the game.
  • Developing people; developing players.
  • Inclusive experiences For All.

For coaches, the main focus should always be to help young players develop and maintain a deep love of the ball and love of the game. That focus must remain front and centre of any approach you adopt as a coach, regardless of the players’ age or level.

Play the video below to hear England Men's manager, Gareth Southgate, discuss the importance of enjoyment.

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The importance of enjoyment

Developing people; developing players

Each young person is unique. They’ll arrive with different personalities, different experiences and even different capabilities – but they’re all still children.

As nature takes its course, these youngsters will develop both as people and as players. As their bodies visibly change, their behaviours might also change, due to brain and hormonal developments. A lot of change takes place during this period and the youngsters need understanding and patience. As a coach, you have an important role to play in helping each of them develop fully as a person.

Their development as players will take place at different rates and different times. It’s vital to bear in mind the stage of development each player's at individually, ensuring that no stages are skipped and gradually helping to provide the right level of challenge.

Through the Youth Development Phase DNA we’ll discuss what this means across all four corners and provide some considerations for you as a coach.

In the video below, Lydia Bedford discusses her approach with England U16s. Consider what it means to you and the players you coach.

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Stages of development

Every young person who decides to play football deserves a positive and memorable experience. The quality of their experience will be a major factor in whether they choose to keep playing the game or not and coaches often play a significant role.

These experiences must be inclusive. Football is a game For All, regardless of age, gender or ability. Each individual is unique and we must embrace this diversity. It's vital that coaches get to know their players and provide a range of high-quality experiences giving each individual the opportunity to be the very best they can.

Butch Fazal, FA coach inclusion and diversity manager, speaks below about the importance of each individual having a brilliant experience.

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Keep it inclusive

To find out more, explore our Youth Development Phase DNA playlist.


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