Youth Soccer Coaching Book

Developing a Coaching Philosophy and Syllabus in Soccer (Part 3)


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Sample Session Plan 9 – 11 Year Olds

I must stress that the template below only is from Newcastle United. I contributed the session contained within. This template was shared on Twitter and I thought it was a simple yet thorough way to both plan soccer exercises, but also to consider communication, differentiation and a session evaluation is inbuilt.

Soccer Session template
Stage 3 The Training to Train Phase

Ages 11 – 14 +/-

In the eleven to fourteen age groups, the focus is still heavily on technical work, although game understanding is of increasing importance. Coaches should be building on the ball manipulation and physical literacy work the players should have completed prior to eleven or twelve years old.

Sample Syllabus / Block of Work 11 – 14 Year Olds

The sample technical syllabus I have used here is actually the combination of two syllabi from two different English academies. The reason I chose two is simply because I do not feel that either are sufficient. The first syllabus is presented below in the titles. Each theme is used for six weeks. There is also a sixth block of work left blank for coaches to work on any aspect of the game they feel is required by their specific players. The second syllabus is presented below with bullet points, adding more detail to the type of work that ought to be covered.

Soccer Block of Work


Sample Session Plan 11 – 14 Year Olds

The session plan used for this age group is from Notts County, a Category 3 English Academy. Both coaches are former colleagues of mine and I consider them both to be students of the game. Both are currently taking their UEFA ‘A’ License. The template reflects the influence of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan, with coaches challenged to consider the specific tactical, physical, mental, social and technical elements of player development. Each session is then evaluated with scores produced for the performance and application of each player.

English Academy

Stage 4 – The Training to Compete Stage

Ages 14 – 16 +/-

We noted in the previous chapter that soccer starts to replicate the adult game at this age. The technical progression of players remains a central aspect of their development, but tactical issues and position-specificity take on a greater significance.

Sample Syllabus / Block of Work 14 – 16 Year Olds

One of the most interesting and thought-provoking schemes of work I have seen comes from the under-15 and 16 coaches at the Manchester United Academy. Former Manchester United Academy Coach, Mark Edwards, wonderfully presented the process. The syllabus has four main blocks of work that are taught in a logical order.

Soccer Logical Order

The logic behind the process was that, to play, you needed to be able to possess the ball and therefore, (1) methods of winning the ball back (defending) were prioritized. On the regaining of possession, the team then had to decide whether they could (2) counter-attack, or if not, how they could (3) keep possession. Eventually, either through a counter-attack or through sustained possession, the players needed to know how to (4) score goals (finish).

During his presentation, Edwards openly acknowledged that this process can be debated, and it was up to individual coaches to interpret and work to their own, justifiable methods.


Sample Session Plan 14 – 16 Year Olds

I observed the session plan below being delivered by an international youth coach working with an under-15 national team in Europe. It is a great example of using the whole-part-whole method that we discussed earlier in this book. The main theme of the session was to teach players how to defend deep (sometimes also known as defending ‘later’).

International Soccer team

Stage 5 – The Training to Win Stage

Age 16 – 19 +/-

From ages 16 to 19, players need to start learning how to win games. For that reason, coaching can become a mixture of both a periodized syllabus and also episodic coaching. An increasing amount of time is spent on tactics and game understanding.

Sample Syllabus / Block of Work 16 – 19 Years Old

The six-week coaching segment below is from a full-time under-19 college soccer program. Like The Football Coaches Library example above, it shows that, not only are sessions linked, but are organized into technical and tactical chunks. There is also an allotted time for any necessary episodic coaching.

Sample Session Plan 16 – 19 Year Olds

The practice session below is taken from Brazilian club Atlético Mineiro, recorded by World Class Coaching. The specific age-group is the club’s under-17 team. It shows an episodic approach to working with an older age group, and is the team’s preparation session for a game the following day.

Atletico Mineiro


Regardless then of the varying methods of developing a philosophy, syllabus, or of individual session plans – having a clearly defined long / medium-term focus is imperative for all soccer coaches. Otherwise we will coach the same thing over and over again, or just butterfly around soccer topics, without considering long-term player development. Hopefully the examples above, bearing in mind that many, many more exist, will assist you in organizing your coaching to help your players reach peak performance.

Soccer Books Newsletter Bennion Kearny


  • A soccer syllabus is an outline of what a coach wants players to learn, usually over the course of a season.
  • There is no ‘perfect’ coaching syllabus. Even the coaching plans of top clubs will differ. Just because they differ, does not make them ‘wrong’.
  • Coaches should be able to justify their methods and the sessions they carry out with players.
  • Traditional youth coaching sessions tend to be reactionary. However, ‘periodized’ coaching is best for young players. Episodic coaching becomes more justifiable once results become important.
  • A syllabus should not be limiting. Use it as a working document that is open to change.
  • The best coaches start from a coaching philosophy, and then plan their work in terms of short, medium and long-term objectives.
  • 91% of the 96 European academies studied have a coaching philosophy. 75% work towards a coaching syllabus.
  • Ajax of Amsterdam bases the development of their youth players around the TIPS Model.
  • Creating your own coaching philosophy can be complicated, but is an evolutionary process.

Syllabi / Session Plan Summary

  • 5 – 8 year olds – Renowned English Academy / Italian Academy
  • 8 – 11 year olds – The Football Coaches Library / Newcastle United template
  • 11 – 14 year olds – Combination of two English academies / Notts County FC Academy
  • 14 – 16 year olds – Manchester United Academy / International Under-15 session
  • 16 – 19 year olds – U19 College Academy / Atlético Mineiro Under 17 session

Real Coach Experience

Working Within a Syllabus

(Tom Johnson, U19 Academy Coach, Central College Nottingham; Performance Analyst, Derby County FC Academy)

In the past year I have been coaching a team where there has been a structured coaching syllabus in place to follow. I have found that this environment has helped me improve as a coach especially with the planning and delivery of my sessions. Preparing for my sessions has always been an aspect that I have seen as being very important. It underpins the success of the session you are delivering.

In the past I have been guilty of taking sessions where I have felt that I am under-prepared and this, I feel, has then shown during those sessions. Since I have been coaching with a structured coaching syllabus, it has allowed me to sit down with the other coaching staff and plan out what we are going to deliver in our sessions – sometimes even weeks in advance – rather than planning a session in the car en route to the club.

One of my roles with the team is to take them for an active recovery session the day after a game. This session can sometimes be a little ‘lighter’ than what may be expected at other times of the week, but this is an essential session in order to make sure that the players are recovering from games in the correct way so that they stay physically healthy throughout the season. It is in these sessions where I have been able to use the coaching syllabus and link it into an active recovery. If the topic during that particular week is switching play or creating space, I have been able to test my coaching skills by delivering a session that links directly to that week’s topic.

Although there is a coaching syllabus in place, I still feel that is important to be able to implement my own coaching style on the sessions. As the players are training every day it is key that each coach adds their own style. I have found that this helps keep players enthusiastic and motivated. A new voice can be very refreshing for players.

Although the coaching syllabus is devised at the beginning of the season, there have been times when there has been a cause for change. In the days leading up to playing a team on a match day, I have been able to adapt the sessions to optimize the preparation for the game ahead. This has been the case a number of times this season. Therefore we have been able to focus our sessions around, for example, compactness of defence and counter-attacking. This has allowed us to swap and change certain topics of our coaching syllabus in accordance to our fixtures or the needs of the players.

Youth Soccer Coaching Book