As part of my role with UC Premier, I have been working on a club curriculum for the U9-U12 age groups. Newberry (2014) described a curriculum in the following terms (p. 9):
The term ‘Curriculum’ is most commonly associated with teaching and school education. In general terms, an educational curriculum consists of everything that promotes the intellectual, personal, social and physical development of the participants. When transferred to sports, the term curriculum is usually related to a book of activities and games organized in such a way to aid the coaching plan for a practice session.
Tyler (as cited in Lau, 2011) identified requirements for the development of a curriculum:
The rationale … developed begins with identifying four fundamental questions, which must be answered in developing any curriculum and plan of instruction. These are:
– What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
– What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
– How can these educational experiences be effectively organised?
– How can we determine whether the purposes are being attained? (p. 32)
There are a number of examples of soccer curricula available, and several are listed below in the references section. The most straightforward decision would be to simply point coaches at an existing curriculum with the instruction to “do this.” The dilemma is that while the many examples of curricula available contain a tremendous amount of valuable information and are based on an understanding of best practices, each has been created with a generalized target audience, at a moment in time, and with a view on how the game should be taught and played that may or may not be applicable to a specific environment.
I put together an entity-relationship graph representing the elements that influence the development of a curriculum. The excellent Coaches Education Manual from NorCal Premier Soccer discusses the importance of identifying the goals and culture of a club in the context of coaching education. My conclusion is that a curriculum for UC Premier must not only reflect how soccer is understood in the modern sense, using the resources that are published by respected educators but must be defined and implemented in a manner that reflects the environment and identity of the club.
An understanding of the high-level program goals is a foundation of curriculum development. In the context of soccer, this means a definition of the desired four dimensions of the game, with an understanding of a style of play and an implementation of that style within a system guided by a set of principles. Evidence-based best practices validate the choices.
Involvement of the coaches (“teachers”) is an integral part of the curriculum development process – both initially and on an on-going basis.
Without doubt, the most important person in the curriculum implementation process is the teacher. With their knowledge, experiences and competencies, teachers are central to any curriculum development effort. Better teachers support better learning because they are most knowledgeable about the practice of teaching and are responsible for introducing the curriculum in the classroom. If another party has already developed the curriculum, the teachers have to make an effort to know and understand it (Alsubaie, 2016, p. 106).
Buy-in from the coaches is critical to the successful application of a curriculum. It’s essential that the curriculum is “sold” to the coaches who will be on the field on a daily basis. The expression of the curriculum (slideware, videos, white papers, and other coaching material) must be designed to engage coaches. Coaching education is a key requirement:
Because teachers have to be involved in curriculum development, the teacher should be provided with appropriate knowledge and skills that help them to effectively contribute in curriculum development operation. As a result, teachers need training and workshops, which are geared toward professional development to be able to contribute to curriculum development (Alsubaie, 2016, pp. 106-107).
The outcome of the curriculum is a definition of age-group seasonal plans. Perez (2011) provided an example of a deep-dive into seasonal plans along the dimensions of player development on a per-age group basis. A product of seasonal planning is the collection of session plans that implements the curriculum. The observations of the coach, working with the team and individual players, are necessary to determine when to slow down or accelerate the execution of the curriculum. The reflections of the coach, based on practice and game experiences, are an essential ingredient in an on-going refinement of the curriculum.
The curriculum needs to be viewed as a living document. The responses of the players, refinements identified by coaches and staff, changes to the game, and evolution of culture and club goals all dictate a continuing process of evaluation and adaptability in curriculum definition.
At the highest level, here is the list of highest-level goals that we’ve identified for our program:
- Provide a safe environment for every child
- Prioritize the development of each player within his/her abilities and potential using recognized best practices
- Support the athletic progress of each player for advancement in the game and in sports
- Nurture a love for the game, competition, teamwork, and sportsmanship
- Develop a player-centered culture
- Implement a style of play that is attractive, successful, and translates to future growth
It is additionally vital to identify “non-goals”:
- Take shortcuts that prioritize short-term winning
- Focus only on game results
- Coach-directed and/or parent-directed environment
Having these lists allows us to be able to make value judgments regarding each detail of the curriculum.
Alsubaie, M. A. (2016). Curriculum Development: Teacher Involvement in Curriculum Development. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(9), 106-107.
Fleck, T., Quinn, R. W., Carr, D., Buren, W., & Stringfield, V. (2008). The Official US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual.
Jozek, R. & Kepcija, I. (2017). Croatian Football Federation Development Curriculum. Vivid & Shine.
Lau, D. C. M. (2001). Analysing the curriculum development process: three models. Pedagogy, culture and society, 9(1), 29-44.
Newberry, D. (Ed.). (2014). Complete Soccer Coaching Curriculum for 3-18 Year Old Players Volume 1. Westerly, RI: Coaching Media Group.
NorCal Premier Soccer. (n.d.). Coaches Education Manual – Level 1.
Perez, J. (2011). US Soccer Curriculum. Retrieved 29 June 2017, from http://www.ossca.org/documents/ossca/coachingeducation/US_Soccer_Guide_to_Coaching.pdf
U.S. Youth Soccer (2012). US YOUTH SOCCER PLAYER DEVELOPMENT MODEL. Retrieved 28 June 2017, from http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/assets/1/3/us_youth_soccer_player_development_model.pdf
U.S. Youth Soccer (2017). Spatial Awareness. Retrieved 6 February 2018, from http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/FileDownload.aspx?D=zi+SJislmedex5csztvO5hM4CBu1M5s4g2Zrsrh3tFE=