The following principles provide us with guide ropes to create an effective long-term structure for the game. As well as enhancing the football experience at all levels, they will create a foundation for future growth.
Research suggests that it takes a player 10,000 hours of football-specific practice and play to reach high levels of expertise. Currently in New Zealand, our young players are not accumulating anywhere near these number of hours.
Our new Framework focuses on providing players with more football opportunities that are tailored to develop the individual, more often. These opportunities enable players to receive more touches of the ball and to reach greater levels of technical proficiency. Particular attention is paid to the balance between football-specific deliberate practice (e.g. highly structured coach-led practice) and football-specific play (e.g. unstructured backyard football) throughout the player’s development.
Research demonstrates that future professional players engage in football by the age of five, and that success is related to the accumulated hours of specific football training. However, rather than an early specialisation model, the National Framework promotes an Early Engagement approach. During this period (4-12 years old), football-specific play is emphasised to promote
guided discovery and develop ‘intelligent’ players.
This approach also helps create intrinsic motivation and develops the love for the game that will drive the young players into more deliberate practice and commitment towards excellence at a later stage. Elements with the National Framework will also focus on creating physically literate players with the fundamental skills to remain active for life.
The timing and tempo of maturation vary greatly between individuals during growth. This is described as the difference between chronological and developmental age. Players may be of the same chronological age but differ by two to four years in their developmental age.
The National Framework asks coaches and administrators to be aware of these individual differences when they design training programs and select players. Late maturers should be given as much attention as early maturers, so that no gifted players drop out or miss out on learning opportunities.
The physiological systems of every player can be trained at any age, but they grow at different rates and times during development. According to the natural growth of the system, sensitive periods in the player’s development have been defined when the body is especially responsive to specific types of skill and physical training. To reach genetic potential, different fitness training components need to be emphasised at the correct period during a players’ development. The training periods are never completely shut, but improvement may not be optimal.
Due to the need for football-specific training and the often small window of coach-player contact, physical training needs to be put into a football-specific context. The Football Fitness component of the National Framework is designed to create physically well-rounded players who remain injury free.
Football Fitness is constructed around the Training Emphasis Periods and Developmental Age principles to ensure that the physical intensity and methods of training are matched to players’ characteristics. This approach will also retain more players in the game as appropriate fitness training is related with reduced drop-out.
The gradual, progressive development of players is fundamental to their enjoyment, technical competency and retention in the game. The four corners approach places the player at the centre of the development process, with football experiences that meet four key needs of each player:
Although priorities will vary during the player’s different phases of maturity, the Four Corners model provides a basic framework for coaches. The model is deliberately interlinked. The key message for coaches is to be aware of the flow-on effects and not consider any of the programme’s components in isolation.
This approach ensures that the football experience offered to players will not only meet their specific needs, but will also foster a greater enjoyment of the sport.
Adapting the games and competition programmes to the needs of the players is a key feature of any longterm player development programme.
Progression from three to 11-a-side games throughout the players’ development helps fulfil the Four Corners approach. The greater number of touches in small-sided games at a young age provides more opportunities for technical development and one-on-one situations. It also allows a greater number of games to be played on the same pitch simultaneously, giving all players the chance to play rather than being left on the sidelines and losing interest.
Player development is dynamic and non-linear, and there are multiple pathways that young players may take. Coupled with the importance of ‘key events and transitions’ in the developmental pathway, this makes it essential for the game to offer flexibility, individual optimisation and return routes.
The National Framework starts to distinguish between Talented (Perform and Excel) and Community (Recreational and Participation) from the age of 8. Talent Identification (TI) and Talent Development (TD) are considered as combined processes to emphasise direction and development, rather than the traditional approach of identification and elimination.
The objective is to reduce the gap between community football and elite youth football, as well as the problem of drop-out following non-selection.
Long-term development depends on an array of stakeholders, including football clubs, schools and private providers. New Zealand Football recognises that a degree of flexibility, particularly in geographically challenged regions, is necessary. However, to optimise player development, the National Framework asks that different groups and institutions become aligned with each other, so they are mutually supportive, clear in their roles, and aware of how they contribute to player development.
Players will best develop in a coordinated national system that is clearly defined and based upon consistent principles. Throughout their football career, players will be able to identify the opportunities available to them and understand the pathway they need to follow, whether their aim is excellence, personal improvement or recreational activity.
The National Framework is underpinned by recent academic research and best practice from leading football nations, to ensure that informed decisions guide the development of New Zealand players.
New Zealand Football will remain at the forefront of international knowledge to guarantee a dynamic approach to players’ development in the future.
In addition the National Framework will drive ongoing education, promotion, and advocacy with government, media, educators, parents, coaches, administrators, and sports scientists.
To find out more about the National Player Framework Development open a copy below or contact your local Football Development Officer.