Page 1


// CONTACT For more information on the Birkenhead United Football Philosophy please contact: Paul Hobson Birkenhead United Director of Football

Tony Readings Birkenhead United Head of Coach Development

FOREWARD // “I am delighted to endorse the Birkenhead United Football Philosophy and thank Tony, Paul and all those at the Club who have contributed to its creation. This document is a reference for how Birkenhead United teams play football and how together we can create the best possible environment to develop our players. As a development club we play an important role in building the depth of playing talent, to help New Zealand achieve success on the world stage. Whilst our goal as a community club is to support all players to reach their potential and develop a life-long love of the game. I encourage all players, parents and coaches to read and embrace this document as our blueprint for continued and even greater success on the field.




CONTENTS // 01 Introduction p7

- BUFP Purpose

- NZF Alignment

02 Our Club p9

- Vision, Mision & Values

- First Teams

- Playing Style & Principles

- Player Profiles

03 Our Parents p17

- Supporting Player Development

- Coaching & Refereeing

04 Our Coaches p21

- Coaching Philosophy

- Coach Education Pathway

- Supporting Player Development

- Goalkeeper Coaching

- Coaching Methodology

05 Our Players p29

- Player Pathway

- Formats, Formations & Positions

- Game Time & Selection

- Player Development Phases

07 Glossary & LInks p43 08 Contacts (backcover)

INTRODUCTION // // BUFP PURPOSE The purpose of the Birkenhead United Football Philosophy (BUFP) document is to provide information to effectively guide all player and coach development at the club. The information in this document encompasses male and female teams. The document aims to ensure an aligned, consistent and collaborative approach to enhance the quality of experience for all stakeholders. The intention is to provide succinct details covering the most important aspects with links to more in-depth information should this be required. The document aligns with best practice research and has been created following consultation with leading coaches, player and coach development experts, club members and parents. The club is committed to effectively executing the BUFP and providing educational opportunities for our stakeholders to achieve this.

// NZ FOOTBALL ALIGNMENT This BUFP document is completely aligned with NZ Football’s evidence-based bestpractice philosophies on player and coach development. Successfully executing the BUFP benefits the club and ensures we contribute to improving the game as a whole in New Zealand. The club is also committed to adhering to all NZ Football standards and licencing criteria to ensure we continue to provide the highest quality experience for our stakeholders. Links are provided throughout this document to relevant NZ Football information.

// WHO THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR This document is relevant for all stakeholders at the club that impact on both player and coach development. This includes players, coaches, parents, officials, staff and club members. These groups have the responsibility to adhere to the BUFP to support the club in providing a safe and positive environment and experience for both Birkenhead United and opposition teams and players.



OUR CLUB // We pride ourselves on being a family focused club that plays an integral role in the Kaipatiki community. We aim to offer quality football programmes, coaching and playing opportunities for people of all ages, genders and ethnicities in an inclusive and unified environment. The club was formed in 1963 and in recent times has achieved unprecedented success on the pitch which has connected and inspired local residents. The successful implementation of the BUFP helps ensure sustainable success, promotes health, wellbeing and brings the local community even closer together.


To be the leading football club in New Zealand // OUR MISSION

To provide opportunities, inspiration & connections for our community through sport



It’s the reason we play, coach, support, volunteer and come together.


Celebrate and embrace the richness of diversity within our community through an inclusive football programme.


Acknowledge and respect the past, respect the coaches, supporters and volunteers, respect the officials and respect your opposition.


Aim high, always strive to be the best we can be, as our standards come from within. Celebrate our success.


Look forward with positivity and think creativily to meet the changing needs of our sport, community and environment.


Set and achieve clear goals and create a financially sustainable Club legacy for future generations of Kiwis to enjoy.


Communicate openly and regularly, encourage member feedback and embrace and share best-practice for continuous improvement. 09


// THE FIRST TEAMS The Birkenhead United first teams represent the club at the highest possible domestic level and are the pinnacle of the Birkenhead United player pathway. They are the embodiment of the BUFP and are responsible for behaving in a manner that upholds the club’s values and to be effective role models for aspiring younger players. Birkenhead United has a rich heritage and history that our first teams must strive to not only uphold, but also to set new benchmarks and standards for future players to emulate. The club aims to develop player depth and promote from within to have first teams representing the club made up of predominantly local players. We aim to create a strong connection and regular interaction between the junior and first teams. To achieve this the club encourages first team players to coach junior teams and attend junior football events and activities. Junior players have the opportunity to carry out the role of ball boys/girls or mascots during first team matches.

// PLAYING STYLE The first teams have the responsibility to consistently deliver a positive, modern playing style that excites supporters and inspires young players to achieve their potential. The Birkenhead United playing style statement below provides a development compass that must guide all player and coach development regardless of age, motivation or ability:


A purposeful and deliberate possession-based style of attacking with varied and unpredictable team and individual play. Brought alive by resourceful players, effective interplay and a clinical mentality in goal scoring situations. Built upon a foundation of resolute defending achieved through intelligent and unrelenting pressing by skilled and selfless players. Our unique identity is observable through reacting quicker and working harder than our opposition and a stronger sense of belonging to each other and the club.



The BUFP aims to inform player and team development that leads to the Birkenhead United playing style statement being achieved and enhanced at first team level. A game of football consists of four moments as detailed in the information below. Within each of these moments there are key principles that must be successfully executed to bring the playing style to life. These key principles should inform player development at each age and stage:



Attacking Transition

Defending Transition

Quick, accurate and varied passing

Regain possession as high and early as possible

Play and move forward as quickly as possible

Counter-press to regain or force backwards

Overload centrally and wide

Prevent opponents from turning

If unable to attack quickly secure possession to regain rhythm and shape

If unable to counter-press, immediately recover and fill priority spaces

Quality, patient incisive passing

Restrict goal scoring opportunities

Confident and intelligent risk taking 11


// FIRST TEAM PLAYER PROFILES The player profiles below provide a highly summarised overview of the desired first team players’ key competencies. As detailed later in this document it is important that junior and youth players experience a variety of positions to enhance their development.



Therefore, whilst these profiles provide an aspirational guide for each position, the level of specific focus differs according to the age and stage development requirements.




Goalkeepers Attacking

• • •

Accurate receiving Varied, accurate distribution with feet Varied, accurate distribution from hands

• • •

Position to support and switch play Adopt high position Organise players in front

• • •

Quick feet and agility Quick changes of direction Fast over short distances

• • •

Confident to get on the ball Composed under pressure Positive decision making

Goalkeepers Defending

• • •

Effective catches and parries Strong in 1 v 1 situations Deal with crosses and through balls

• • •

Adopt effective sweeping position Organise players in front Awareness of biggest threat

• • •

Explosive lower body Powerful upper body strength Physically robust for repeated diving

• • •

Loud and clear communicator Brave in ground challenges Brave in aerial challenges

Centre Backs Attacking

• • •

Effective receiving of varied passes Variety of short and long passing Ability to dribble into space

• • •

Position to receive safely Joining attack at correct time Prioritisation of effective passes

• • •

Speed over short distances Speed over longer distances Quick turning and change of direction

• • •

Willingness to demand the ball Composure under pressure Confident to receive after mistakes

Centre Backs Defending

• • •

Dominant 1 v 1 defending on ground/in air Skillful pressing, intercepting and tackling Tracking, marking and defending from crosses

• • •

Effective body shape and positioning Ability to provide cover and support Clear and concise communication

• • •

Anaerobic capacity Defensive agility Strength and jumping ability

• • •

Bravery when challenging Disciplined defending Leadership

Full Backs Attacking

• • •

Effectively receive and play a variety of passes Ability to run with ball and dribbling Variety of crossing techniques

• • •

Timing to support attacks Positioning to balance attacks Understanding when to run beyond the ball

• • •

Explosive speed over short and longer distances Speed endurance Quick turning and change of direction

• • •

Confident and composed on ball Disciplined attacking Mentality to constantly attack and defend

Full Backs Defending

• • •

Skillful 1 v 1 defending and tackling • Prevent/intercept dangerous passes • Tackling, marking and defending from crosses •

Intelligent pressing and challenging Positioning to provide cover Position to balance defensive shape

• •

Defensive agility Lower body strength Upper body strength

• • •

Bravery when challenging Disciplined defending Confidence to organise others



For NZ Football’s Player Profiles







Centre Midfielders Attacking

• Effective vision and turning efficiency • Play quickly or travel at pace • Play variety of passes and score from distance

• Positioning/body shape to receive in time and space • Interchange with other midfielders • Ensure balanced attacking shape

• Aerobic and anaerobic capacity • Speed over short distances and change of direction • Lower body strength

• Demanding the ball and composure under pressure • Restraint in joining attacks • Confidence to dictate tempo of game

Centre Midfielders Defending

• Screen/intercept forward passes • Skillful/aggressive defending, tackling and tracking • Consistently win headers

• Intelligent pressing • Screen passes and provide support and cover • Recover into the most dangerous positions

• Defensive agility • Strength on the ball and when challenging • Jumping power

• Disciplined defending • Bravery when challenging • Constant strong communicator and organiser

Attacking Midfielders Attacking

• Effective vision and turning efficiency • Beat opponent 1 v 1, combination play/killer passes • Score from inside and outside penalty area

• Find space between lines • Movement to arrive in dangerous positions • Position to initiate or support counter attacks

• Aerobic and anaerobic capacity • Speed off the mark and over short and longer distances • Leg strength for repeated turning

• Persistence to get on ball under pressure • Composed and spontaneous in attacking areas • Desire to get into goal scoring positions

Attacking Midfielders Defending

• Support forwards with press • Skillful tackling, screening and intercepting • Provide effective cover and support

• Limit space for opponent’s attacks • Knowing when to press • Provide midfield cover

• Defensive agility • Strength on the ball and when challenging • Jumping power

• Bravery when challenging • Disciplined defending • Willingness to work hard and recover

Wide Attackers Attacking

• Effective vision and turning efficiency • Beat opponent 1 v 1, combination play/killer passes • Variety of crossing techniques

• Find space between lines • Time movement to run behind • Position to initiate or support counter attacks

• Aerobic and anaerobic capacity • Speed over short and longer distances • Strength on ball and changes of direction

• Persistence to get on ball under pressure • Composed and spontaneous in attacking areas • Desire to score

Wide Attackers Defending

• Lead press and force one way • Screen and intercept passes • Recovering and tracking back

• Limit space for opponent’s attacks • Initiate press or provide support, cover or balance • Recover to fill in for other players

Central Attackers Attacking

• Score goals in a variety of ways • Secure possession under pressure in front and behind • Beat opponent 1 v 1, combination play/ killer passes

• Get into goal scoring positions • Movement to receive in dangerous areas • Awareness of others to combine with

• Aerobic and anaerobic capacity • Speed over short and longer distances • Jumping power and changes of direction

• Hunger/bravery to score and shoot • Composed and spontaneous in attacking areas • Wanting to get on the ball under pressure

Central Attackers Defending

• Lead the press to win ball or force outside • Intercept passes • Initiate counter attacks

• Limit space for opponent’s attacks • Timing to initiate effective press • Recover in for others

• Defensive agility • Strength on the ball and when challenging • Jumping power

• Maintain pressing mentality • Bravery when challenging • Disciplined and hard working

• Defensive agility • Strength on the ball • Strength when challenging

• Maintain pressing mentality • Disciplined defending/brave challenging • Willingness to work hard and recover


OUR PARENTS // Parents play the most significant role in a player’s development and their level of enjoyment of the game.


The way a parent behaves, communicates, challenges and supports their child has a profound impact on fostering their love for the game and ability to realise their potential.

The information below provides some guiding principles for Birkenhead United parents to use to effectively support their child’s development.

Despite the critical role parents play, they rarely receive education, support and guidance on how to effectively support their child’s development.

Keep it Fun and Enjoyable Players are more likely to fall and stay in the love with the game if they are having fun. Players also learn and improve more effectively in enjoyable environments. Parents can support this by watching matches with a smile on their face and not applying additional pressure.

This section provides details on how Birkenhead United parents can support the club in the holistic development of their child and other players, to create fun, safe and learning environments.

// WHY DO THEY PLAY FOOTBALL? To fully understand how to best support their child’s development, parents must take time to understand why they play football. Knowing this enables a parent to identify their child’s motivations and aspirations which informs the type and level of support they provide. As a player progresses through the pathway their ‘why’ may change, so it is important that parent’s stay attuned to this and adapt their support accordingly.




Provide Positive Encouragement and Support The path to players learning and realising their potential involves many challenges and disappointments. A parent’s unconditional support regardless of the outcome plays a pivotal role in making the most of opportunities and overcoming setbacks. Tell your child that you love watching them play.


Focus on Effort and Improvement – Not Winning and Losing Making mistakes is an inevitable and crucial part of a player’s development. Players must be encouraged to try new skills and take risks to increase their opportunity to grow through learning from mistakes. Parents help create a growth mindset and inspire improvements if their praise and focus is placed on effort and learning and not performance. This approach also helps keep players grounded when required.





Treat Everyone with Respect Parents are important role models for their children who copy behaviours displayed by them. It is crucial that parents treat players, the opposition and referees with respect to provide a positive example for their child to follow. If other’s do not behave in this way towards us, successfully adhering to this principle provides an even more powerful positive example to players. Support the Coach It is important that parents support the coach to provide a positive environment and provide them with space to carry out their role. If parents require clarity on any matters, then they should discuss this respectfully with the coach directly to ensure their child consistently receives aligned messaging.


Be an Effective Sideline Supporter Parents should feel free to provide encouragement and support to their child’s team and the opposition. Parents should avoid shouting instructions onto the pitch, instead allow the coach to carry out their role and enable players to become more effective decision makers. Praise should be focused on effort, creativity and trying new things as opposed to performance to encourage these behaviours. Parents should also support the referees and ensure only positive comments are made towards them.

Support Effective Problem Solvers and Decision Makers Parents must encourage independence and personal responsibility by allowing players to solve problems and make their own decisions. Parents must listen effectively and ask questions rather than provide solutions. Encourage curiosity and creativity. Use MILC to Grow Stronger Players Drinking milk helps grow and strengthen children’s bones, using MILC as a communication tool with your child helps grow and strengthen them as a player: Memory What was your favourite memory from the game? Improved What aspect of your game did you improve? Learn What did you learn in the game? Courage In which part of the game do you think you were the bravest?


// TRANSITIONING FROM PARENT TO COACH The Club encourages parents to consider taking up the role of a coach for their child’s (or another) team and provide the necessary support to ensure this is a fun, fulfilling and rewarding experience. Coaching can be perceived as daunting for parents that have not coached before. The main attributes in being an effective Birkenhead United coach are high levels of care and enthusiasm. The club offers the following support to new coaches to help remove the traditional barriers to parents coaching: • Formal and informal educational opportunities (costs covered by the club) • Support at training sessions • Easy to use resources including lots of session plans where the game is the teacher • A friendly and supportive network of parent coaches • Support from the Director of Football and Head of Coach Development Coaching provides a great opportunity for a parent to have a positive impact on their child’s team and to build stronger relationships with their child and their friends. Playing a key role in helping players improve and enjoy the game is a very rewarding experience.

// TRANSITIONING FROM PARENT TO REFEREE The club also encourages parents to consider taking up the role of a referee for match days. The referee plays an integral role in the effective management of matches and safety of players. Refereeing does not require any additional time commitments to parents that regularly attend their child’s matches. The club provides educational opportunities for parents to obtain the necessary knowledge and understanding to officiate matches at club level. For more information and support on how to positively impact your child’s development.  




OUR COACHES // Coaches play a key role in ensuring the BUFP is successfully executed. They are important role models that have the responsibility to holistically develop players and impact on them positively as a person. Coaches have a duty of care for the wellbeing of their players and play a significant role in enabling them to realise their potential.  


The club is committed to providing coach development, support and resources to all coaches to ensure they have the required knowledge and understanding to provide age and stage appropriate coaching aligned to the BUFP. These opportunities are provided via formal NZ Football courses, informal development sessions and on pitch practical support by the Director of Football and Head of Coach Development. The club encourages coaches to take up these opportunities to ensure all players get the right coaching at the right time. Coaches are also welcome to watch the first teams train to see the club’s playing style being developed with our top teams.

Birkenhead United coaches create safe, positive, learning environments that enable players to fall and stay in love with the game. They provide age and stage appropriate holistic development with a focus on creating resilient, self-responsible, curious and creative players. Our coaches role model the expected behaviours and standards and focus on individual long-term player development in order for players to realise their potential.

” The diagram above outlines NZ Football’s structured and progressive Coach Education Pathway which covers all levels and age groups. The club hosts and delivers community level courses at Shepherds Park and can support coaches to attend other courses. The club covers the full costs for community level courses, and also for advanced level courses for coaches that will remain at the club for several seasons.



The coaching courses improve the level of knowledge and understanding of coaches, and also provide them with an abundance of resources to support session planning and delivery. For information on NZ Football’s Coach Education Pathway 22

// THE BIRKENHEAD UNITED COACH PROFILE The information below outlines the desired characteristics and behaviours of a Birkenhead United Coach:



Consistently develops players in each of the our corners player development (technical/tactical, physical, mental, social/ emotional) and acts in a manner aligned to the BUFP


Puts the players’ development and welfare first with every decision


Enthusiastic, adaptable, positive and has fun supporting and developing players


Positive role model and encourages behaviours of fair play and respect towards teammates, referees and the opposition


Open minded and has the required knowledge and understanding to provide fun, age and stage appropriate coaching


Provides challenge and support in equal measure


Organised and prepared for all trainings and matches and communicates their ideas clearly


Has a friendly and approachable demeanour, encourages questions and curiosity and provides honest and skilful feedback to players and parents


Treats all players equally and provides equal opportunities


Provides feedback to the club and collaborates with the Birkenhead United coaching community to enhance the development environments for all players 24



Coach People and Not Players Coaches must treat all players with care and as a person first and foremost. Coaches must take time to know their players and understand they develop at different rates in each of the four corners of player development (technical/tactical, physical, mental, social/emotional). Catering for each players individual needs and providing appropriate challenge and support creates environments that enable players to develop, learn and flourish.


Ensure Training is Fun with Lots of Touches of the Ball Ensure that training sessions are fun to develop and foster the love of the game. If players do not enjoy training, they will seek another environment or another sport. All aspects of training should contain a ball to maximise player touches and the opportunity to develop their skills.


Ensure Environments and Training are Age and Stage Appropriate

To maximise enjoyment and learning coaches must create environments and training that cater specifically for the age and stage of their players. Coaches must seek to understand their motivations and characteristics to effectively support their holistic development. This also ensures the safety of players, appropriate physical loading and reduces the risk of injuries. 25


Focus on Individual and Long-Term Development Coaches must prioritise individuals over teams, and development over winning. Focused attention must be placed on anticipating and responding to the variety of player needs. This can be done by modifying; what is being taught, how it is taught and how players demonstrate their learning. Short-term outcomes are often a barrier to players realising their potential.


Let the Game Be the Teacher Simply playing the game is the most effective way for players to learn and improve. Coaches play a key role but can limit development through over-coaching or delivering non game related sessions. Playing games is the most fun way to learn and provides instant feedback and endless opportunities for players to experiment, achieve success and learn through making mistakes. Coaches should focus on helping players learn as opposed to teaching.


Ensure Training Sessions Resemble the Match To maximise development in training, activities must be football related, contain all four moments and resemble the game. This results in increased transference of learning into the match. Players should be placed in game related situations with repetition of technical outcomes and decision making. Activities such as isolated drills should be avoided.


Develop Independent Players and Effective Decisions Makers Coaches must aim to create independent and autonomous players who are capable of driving their own development and making effective decisions. To facilitate this coaches can; place constraints and challenges within training, encourage problem solving, ask effective questions and actively listen. This approach should be consistent on match day with match briefings, sideline coaching, half time team talks, and match de-briefs. Coaches must inspire players to become students of the game and train in their own time.


Encourage a Growth Mindset Coaches should focus their praise and rewards on effort and improvement, as opposed to performance and winning. This approach promotes behaviours such as hard work, perseverance, using effective strategies and seeking help from others.


Explain the ‘Why’ To support the effective learning of players, generate problem solving and inspire greater purpose, coaches must clearly articulate ‘why’ players are being asked to complete tasks or focus on certain areas. Understanding the ‘why’ provides clarity and increases player motivation.


Work in Partnership with Parents Coaches should engage with parents through proactive communication at the start of the season and on a regular basis. Clarity can be provided on the support required, expectations, the focus of training and the ‘why’. Establishing a positive and collaborative relationship with parents has a significant impact on a player’s enjoyment and learning.


// GOALKEEPER COACHING The goalkeeper is an important position and requires specialist support for players to excel. Team trainings can provide immense benefit through team integration, developing outfield skills and repetition of goalkeeper actions, however most coaches cannot provide the necessary specialist guidance and instruction. The club is committed to developing coaches to provide specialised goalkeeper training for aspiring players. The club works to identify the most suitable development opportunities on the goalkeeper coaching pathway and covers any associated costs.

// COACHING METHODOLOGY Coaches must employ varied coaching methods when working with different age groups of players. Each age group (and team) has differing needs and requirements and coaches must understand these if they are to apply the most appropriate coaching method to support optimal learning and development. The specific characteristics and needs of players can be found in the ‘Players’ section of this document. The information below outlines the coaching methods continuum that coaches have at their disposal. Each of the methods can be utilised as appropriate depending on the players and the relevant scenario. As a general rule, to achieve the club’s aim of developing independent players and effective decision makers coaches should prioritise the use of the coaching methods on the right side of the continuum.

Coaching Methodology

Command (Directive)

Question & Answer

Player/Coach Interventions

Coach tells and shows required solution




Observation & Feedback

Guided Discovery

Trial & Error

Coach leads with question to gain response from players

Coach and players observe

Coach asks a question or issues a challenge

Players and/or coach decide on challenge

“I want you to..!”

“Can you tell me what you can do here?”

“Let’s watch this!”

“Can you show me?”

“Try for yourself”

Coach determines the chosen outcomes in practice

Coach poses question and player offers verbal solution to challenge

Players and coach observe and discuss feedback

Coach prompts and players offer visual demonstration of their personal solution

Players are encouraged to find solutions with minimal support from coach


OUR PLAYERS // // PLAYER PATHWAY The Birkenhead United player pathway provides an aligned and cohesive framework to meet the needs of all players in the club. It aims to provide a clear distinction between the progressive stages, with each stage having clear objectives and guidelines. The club aims to support the smooth transition of players between each stage, including providing increased support to those that aspire to play at a higher level. The pathway includes details on how the club implements NZ Football’s awardwinning Whole of Football Plan (WOFP) at club level. The club has a rich history of developing local players to play at the elite levels. Bill Tuiloma is an example of a player that remained at the club from five years old through to the first team and is now a full time professional and senior international. Players joining the club at five years old will play over 300 matches and take part in over 500 training sessions before they play for the first team. During this time players are developed in line with the club’s playing style statement to help the first teams achieve sustainable success. The club aims to retain players from junior to senior football. For players that join the club part way through the pathway, support is provided to educate players on any key development gaps. When players reach the latter stages or end of the pathway the club encourages them to consider opportunities to contribute at different levels in roles such as coach, manager, referee etc.




20+ Years



u17 u16/u17 (dual-age band)


All Whites Football Ferns Professional football University scholarships National men’s league National women’s league

National U19 tournament AFF/NFF competition NFF competition

Team training

U20 All Whites U20 Football Ferns National Youth League

National U17 tournament AFF/NFF Metro/Conference competition NFF competition

TDP Team training

U17 All Whites U17 Football Ferns

No competition

NFF FTC camps NFF NAGT U15 All Whites (TBC) U15 Football Ferns (TBC)

AFF/NFF Metro/Conference competition NFF competition

TDP Team training


AFF/NFF Metro/Conference competition NFF competition

TDP* Team training

NFF FTC camps (TBC)


NFF competition Club tournaments Summer football

NZF Skill Centre Team training

NFF - Weir Rosebowl competition


NFF competition Club tournaments Summer football

NZF Skill Centre Team training


NFF competition Club tournaments Summer football

NZF Skill Centre* Team training


In-house matches Club tournaments Summer football

NZF WOFP Development squad

In-house matches Summer football


FIRST KICKS u5 and u6

*NZ Football is introducing club licencing with the aim of raising the level of club football throughout New Zealand. As part of meeting the youth criteria the club will provide Skill Centres for u9-u12 grades and the Talent Development Programme (TDP) for u13-u17 grades for players showing the greatest potential.

NFF FTC camps NFF NAGT TDP Team training



Team training

AFF/NFF Metro/Conference competition NFF competition


u14 (girls u13/u14 dual-age band)


Chatham Cup Kate Sheppard Cup NRFL competition AFF/NFF competition NFF competition Summer football



Players Develop at Different Rates Player development is dynamic and non-linear and players improve at different rates in the four corners of player development (technical/tactical, physical, psychological, social/ emotional). This can often lead to a misconception that players are lacking effort or stagnating, resulting in increased external pressure which impacts self-confidence and enjoyment. Perseverance, effort and fun must continue to be encouraged for sustainable long-term enjoyment and improvement.


The Role of Futsal Futsal is not included in the Birkenhead United Player Pathway as the club is currently unable to provide a formal futsal programme. The club strongly promotes futsal as a means of development that complements football programmes due its increased demands on quick play, decision making, individual ball skills, creativity, and team work. The club supports players that choose to pursue the futsal pathway.



Football Homework Essential The club encourages all players to train outside of their team trainings in order to realise their potential. Player development is contingent on the accumulation of quality training hours and touches on the ball. Players should use all opportunities (e.g. in back yard, at school) to develop their technical ability. Watching and learning from role models in matches and on YouTube also increases motivation and exposes players to a wide range of techniques.


Encourage Players to Play a Variety of Sports Specialising too early can lead to burnout, injury or loss of love of the sport. The club encourages young players to play a range of sports. This helps maintain their love of the game and skills learned from other sports can positively impact football development and improve physical literacy.

Developing Possession from the Goalkeeper All teams are encouraged to develop possession from the goalkeeper as opposed to kicking the ball long. This provides a greater challenge to players and encourages behaviours, techniques and decision making aligned to the club’s playing style. For teams in the u12 grade and below, players must focus on using the retreating line to effectively develop possession.

Girls Playing in Mixed or Girls Teams Females can choose whether they play in a mixed or girls only team in the junior and youth grades. Playing in an appropriate mixed team can provide increased challenge to accelerate player development. The club ensures equal opportunity in the grading process and provides increased support and guidance if required.


School Football The club supports players playing for their school and is committed to working collaboratively with all relevant parties in the best interests of the player. This includes monitoring player loading to ensure over-training does not occur across all of their football environments.

Physical Conditioning Training The most appropriate and effective way to train physical attributes is to incorporate physical training into football training. Coaches should adapt football training to include physical outcomes, as opposed to isolated physical sessions. This helps maximise training time and supports the continual development of technical and tactical attributes. Physical training can be incorporated into small sided games or other suitable practice types.

Player Wellbeing and Injury Prevention – FIFA 11+ and FIFA 11+ Kids The club fully endorses the principles of a safe warm up and promotes the use of the FIFA 11+ programme prior to all training sessions and matches tailored to each age group. The FIFA 11+ drastically reduces injuries and enhances performance. It helps players move more efficiently and incorporates running, active stretching, balance and strengthening exercises. The FIFA 11+ Kids should be used to improve fundamental movement skills with activities relative to the age and ability of the group. Coaches should lead the FIFA 11+ in the first instance, ensuring good technique. Once educated, players can develop their leadership skills by leading this training component or complete this prior to training. Follow this link for full information on the FIFA 11+ warm up




The match formats implemented are aligned to NZ Football’s National Player Development Framework and world’s best practice. These formats are age appropriate and support player enjoyment and development. The table (right) outlines the match formats for each age group.

Aside from the senior teams, coaches are encouraged to ensure all players receive equal game time. This is consistent with the prioritisation of long-term player development ahead of a short-term results focussed approach. Player development is dynamic and non-linear and current performance is not a reliable indicator of future potential so all players should be given equal opportunities.

Follow this link for more information on the benefits of modified match formats for younger players

// FORMATIONS Whilst the playing style remains consistent, the formations the first teams play may vary in order to win matches. With the focus on development at junior and youth level the formations adopted must enhance player learning. The club strongly recommends that youth teams (u13-u17) adopt the 1-4-3-3 formation. This formation; provides a balanced shape across the pitch to support effective attacking and defending, develops creative players and quick combination play, has a high degree of flexibility and is easy for players to understand. The recommended formations for our junior teams (u9-u12) gradually introduce players to roles and responsibilities and playing structures that lend themselves to a smoother transition into the 1-4-3-3 formation. Teams playing in the u5-u8 grades should not use set formations, instead the focus should be placed on enjoyment and individual development. The table (right) provides an overview of the recommended formations for each age group.

// PLAYING POSITIONS For effective long-term development coaches must ensure players experience playing in a variety of positions. Coaches can choose to rotate players’ positions within a match, however the preference is to do this between matches. The positions players prefer, or are most effective at in junior and youth football are often not the position they will play in senior football. From u13 grade onwards it is recommended that players start to focus on playing in one area of the pitch to start the development of specialised techniques, skills and decision making. These areas could be the following: • Playing unit (defence, midfield, attack) • Wide area (full back, wide forward) • Central area (centre back, central midfield, centre forward Players refine the specialisation of their position as they move closer to senior football with a focus on a primary and secondary position. Following these guidelines supports the development of well-rounded and adaptable players. The table (right) provides an overview of the recommended approach to playing positions. 35


Match Format



Playing Positions

Game Time



No set formation

Fun and individual development

No fixed positions

EQUAL game time



No set formation

Fun and individual development

No fixed positions

EQUAL game time



No set formation

Fun and individual development

No fixed positions

EQUAL game time



No set formation

Fun and individual development

No fixed positions

EQUAL game time




Intro to roles and responsibilities

Rotate through all positions

EQUAL game time




Intro to roles and responsibilities

Rotate through all positions

EQUAL game time




Develop roles and responsibilities

Rotate through all positions

EQUAL game time




Develop roles and responsibilities

Rotate through all positions

EQUAL game time


11 v 11


Set formation and strategy

Players play in one area

EQUAL game time


11 v 11


Set formation and strategy

Players play in one area

EQUAL game time


11 v 11


Adaptable strategy

Players have primary and secondary position

EQUAL game time


11 v 11


Adaptable formation and strategy

Players have primary and secondary position

EQUAL game time



Players in each age group have differing abilities and motivations for playing football. The open selection process (grading) the club undertakes prior to the start of the season is designed to place players in teams with players of a similar potential. The Director of Football leads this process and makes the final decisions on selections.

Physical maturation is a component that can have a detrimental effect on a player’s development. The club aims to manage each player individually depending on their particular characteristics and needs.

Players can choose to take part in the grading process or be placed in a team to play with their friends. The club is committed to ensuring all players have a quality football experience. Players deemed to have the most potential and who display the necessary commitment are placed in teams that receive increased support. Player development and behaviours are monitored throughout the season to enable player movement between teams. A larger number of players receive increased support in the younger age groups as these players are less developed and potential is more difficult to gauge. The club’s policy is not to grade u5 and u6 grade teams and instead focus on skill development and enjoyment of each child’s first football experience. The club considers individual player differences when selecting to ensure all players are provided with the opportunity to reach their development potential.



The Relative Age Effect (RAE) is prevalent in junior and youth sport and refers to the selection bias of more mature players within an age group, and those born earlier in the year.

Some players excel in their age group due to their advanced early accumulation of training hours compared to their peers.

Less mature players are unfairly disadvantaged often without due consideration of their potential. These players then miss out on opportunities to access better coaching and are not challenged appropriately. During the selection process the club prioritises other factors such as reading the game and decision making and works to ensure a balanced selection of birth dates across the year (in different years for dual-banded teams).


The Club takes care when comparing these players to others in their age group that have not accumulated the same amount of practice. The Club provides opportunities for these players to accumulate quality training hours to address these gaps. To support the development of players who are advanced in their age group, praise and reward is focused on effort instead of performance to promote a growth mindset to support their long-term development.

For late developing players the club takes their maturation level into account during the selection process and supports their development within their own age group. If appropriate, early developing players may be placed in older age groups to provide increased challenge to accelerate their development in certain areas without being able to rely on physical dominance.

// PLAYERS PLAYING IN OLDER AGE GROUPS The Director of Football may decide that it is appropriate for a player to train and/or play in an older age group. A players’ technical/tactical, physical, psychological and social/ emotional level are assessed to decide if ‘playing up’ will provide a suitable challenge that will benefit a player’s long-term development. This could include participation in training or also playing in matches in an older age group. Players may have planned returns to their own age group for reasons such as selfconfidence and social development. These decisions are discussed with the player, parents and relevant coaches and dispensation will need to be agreed with the Federation.



To effectively develop players a logical and progressive approach must be applied. NZ Football have identified ‘four phases of player development’, providing key information on player characteristics at each stage aligned to appropriate playing structures.

This phase is all about falling in love and ‘discovering’ the game therefore the social/ emotional environment is crucial. This will involve players taking part in football for the first time. Activities in this phase need to be exciting, enjoyable and stimulating. Training and playing should involve lots of movement, plenty of ball contact, loads of encouragement and little or no coaching intervention. Engaging with players in a positive way may be the deciding factor for whether football becomes their sport of choice.

Each phase provides players with access to appropriate provision for their development stage and level of ambition. The key guiding principles around the ‘four phases of player development are: • Develop the individual • A stepped, logical, phased approach is required, taking into account the age of the player • A holistic approach. All four corners will be covered in a football specific way but the focus may differ in each phase. The diagram below provides an overview and description of the ‘four phases of development’ - Discovery, Skill Acquisition, Game Training and Performance.

Player characteristics in this phase include: • Cognitive skills are very basic and are just starting to form • Unco-ordinated with and without the ball in the early stages • Self-centred with little understanding of how the game is played (in and out of possession) • Enjoy fun games in short bursts • Able to handle small amounts of information only Follow these links for best practice guidelines for coaching players in the Discovery Phase and resources of training sessions. • National Curriculum: Staged Phases of Player Development • Holistic Player Development • Junior Football games and activities • Junior Football Coaches Handbook • NZF Game Cards

The information in the following sections has been extracted directly from the NZ Football documentation to provide a summary of each of the above phases. For more information on the phases and details on effective training content and methods click on the links provided.



// THE SKILL ACQUISITION PHASE U9-U12 During the Skill Acquisition Phase players are generally well balanced, co-ordinated and adaptive to learning motor skills. This is the ‘Golden Age’ of motor learning. In no other phase of life will motor learning happen faster. The Skill Acquisition Phase is the optimal time to focus on developing football skill which is essential for long-term participation in football. Training and playing should place emphasis on learning football skills within the context of the game. Player characteristics in this phase include: • Well balanced and co-ordinated and adaptive to learning motor skills • Players are becoming interested to learn and apply the relevant skills required in the game • Capable of and enjoy, problem solving and challenges • Very active, energetic and motivated • Start to become more aware and recognise the value of others • Sensitive to criticism and failure Follow these links for best practice guidelines for coaching players in the Skill Acquisition Phase and resources of training sessions • • • • •

The Skill Acquisition Phase (9-12 years old) Holistic Player Development (9-12 years old) Junior Framework: Games and Activities Junior Football: Coach’s Handbook Junior Football 2018 Game Cards



The Game Training Phase focuses on taking the core skills developed during the Skill Acquisition Phase and learning how to apply them within a team environment. This phase introduces 11v11 football to prepare the players for the senior game.

The purpose of training during the Performance Phase is about creating high levels of team performance on every occasion, whether this is at club, professional or international level. It is also an opportunity for players to apply their skills learnt at the highest possible level available to them.

Players are made aware of their specific tasks to help the team perform during each moment with the focus on the development of the individual. Training should resemble the game as much as possible so players execute what they have learnt during training when playing. Player characteristics in this phase include: • Players enter the growth spurt and there is a temporary deterioration in co-ordination and strength • Players are prone to overuse injuries • Physically and mentally ready for a more structured approach • A greater desire to be part of a team • Accelerated intellectual development • Prone to mood swings, impulsive and becoming more independent


Follow these links for best practice guidelines for coaching players in the Game Training Phase and resources of training sessions: • Game Training Phase (13-19 years old) • Holistic Player Development (13-15 years old)

Perfecting team tactics becomes a core feature of training sessions. This is done by focusing on solving football problems, based on match analysis. Players progressing through this stage must embrace a proactive behaviour towards factors increasing longevity in the game such as football conditioning. Player characteristics in this phase include: • Readiness to take ownership of tactics and implement them on the pitch • Differences in motivation to play the game • Additional challenges around the sport / life balance • Physical capability to undertake conditioning training Follow this link for best practice guidelines for coaching players in the Performance Phase





BUFP = Birkenhead United Football Philosophy NZF = New Zealand Football WOFP = Whole of Football Plan NFF = Northern Football Federation AFF = Auckland Football Federation TDP = Talent Development Programme NRFL = Northern Regional Football League FTC = Federation Talent Centre NAGT = National Age Group Tournament NZ Football Whole of Football Plan NZ Football Beyond Football Plan NZ Football National Football Curriculum NZ Football Junior Framework Manual NZ Football Youth Framework Manual NZ Football Game Cards NZ Football Junior Framework – Games and Activities NZ Football Junior Football Coach’s Handbook NZ Football Talent Development Programme Manual NZ Football Skills Centre Manual NZ Football Retreating Line Document Northern Football Federation Playing Model – 7 v 7

Profile for buafc

BUAFC Football Philosophy Document  

BUAFC Football Philosophy Document  

Profile for buafc

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded