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Co-authored by the late Professor Horst Wein and Vasco Nunes Technical Coaching Director - Halton Hawks FC

This is Part 1 of a 9-part series on optimal youth development. 

Part 1 – THE PLAN

In order to ensure optimal development for kids, you must have a detailed

or comprehensive plan or model to achieve your goals.


Constructing a development model requires that you:

  1. Decide upon a style of play you want to achieve with the kids. Modern soccer, as played by Spain, Barcelona and other progressive teams are based around constructive possession play.

  2. Many institutions (organizations, schools, and clubs) are now buying into this beautiful style of playing soccer. (Including the Canadian Soccer Association)

  3.  Use the Game Intelligence Approach to coaching soccer at all levels. Optimal development for modern soccer depends not only on physical, technical and tactical elements but more importantly on deeper understanding and reading of the game and better decision making!


Game intelligence consists of 4 phases which must be trained from the earliest ages – perception, understanding, decision making, and execution.

  1. Construct logical, progressive, age-appropriate stages of development to achieve the goal over a given period. This applies to the competitions that the children play as well as their training.

  2. Use a comprehensive training curriculum to cover all aspects of the game for each developmental stage in training. Each training module must relate directly to the age-appropriate competition game they play.

  3. Integrate all aspects of play (cognitive, tactical, technical and physical). In modern soccer, you must use training time efficiently and ensure that what the children are learning directly related to the game. This is best achieved by a game-oriented program in training rather than isolating the individual elements as in normally the case using drills. The Game must literally be the teacher, this ensures:

  • A greater understanding of the game of soccer and the ability to “read” the game and make good decisions. (Game Intelligence!)

  • Greater transfer of skills into the real game.

  • All-round development of players.

  • Greater efficiency as the physical and technical elements are catered for as well as the tactical and cognitive.

  1. Make sure that training is enjoyable. Put simply, games are more fun than drills and physical exercises and naturally more motivating for young players!

  • Have patience!  Coaches, and parents, must allow their children enough time to master each step along the long way to becoming a mature happy human being as well as a good soccer player.

The XCEL-COACHING MODEL has been proven, refined and expanded over the last 30 years with the feedback of over 12,000 coaches globally. It has been the official model in Spain for more than 20 years and is rapidly growing around the world, especially in countries like Germany, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, USA, and. Canada (Only Halton Hawks FC has fully implemented the Xcel Coaching Model.

Halton Hawks FC
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