#Training framework

Spiralling up: The long-term development process

FIFA, 09 Apr 2024


As part of the Talent Coach Programme, FIFA coaches are helping talented young players around the world fulfil their potential. But what exactly is the thinking behind the way the programme develops players?

In the previous two articles of the Training Framework series, Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger introduced the FIFA Talent Coach Programme’s vision and discussed the profile of the future player. In this third contribution, we delve deeper into the programme’s educational foundation and explore how its emphasis on “spiral learning” shapes the long-term development process. Arne Barez, FIFA Football Content Manager, provides an insightful overview of this topic in the accompanying video.

What is a spiral curriculum?

A spiral curriculum is an educational concept where learning is organised in a spiral sequence, building upon previously acquired knowledge and competencies. The approach involves revisiting key themes at different points of the learning process, each time with greater complexity and depth. The idea is to introduce core themes early on and then revisit and expand on them in subsequent learning phases.

Key principles:

  • Holistic learning experience: Learners are introduced to all core themes from the beginning of their development.

  • Repetition and reinforcement: Concepts are revisited multiple times, reinforcing learning and deepening understanding with each iteration.

  • Incremental complexity: Each iteration introduces a higher level of complexity or additional details, allowing learners to delve deeper into the subject matter.

  • Continuous progression: Learning continues to progress in a spiral, ensuring a continuous and interconnected development of skills and understanding.

  • Application of knowledge: Learners are encouraged to apply previously acquired competencies to new situations, promoting a more holistic and practical understanding of the game.

  • Tailored to individuals: Spiral learning can accommodate different learning paces, allowing learners to grasp concepts at their own speed.

This approach often contrasts with linear learning, where concepts are taught in a one-time, linear sequence. Spiral learning is considered beneficial for retaining information over the long term as it acknowledges the importance of revisiting and reinforcing foundational concepts iteratively. 

How does spiral learning apply to football?

The spiral serves as a simplified yet comprehensive framework for long-term player development, with each level representing a distinct age group. Rooted in football’s fundamental objectives of scoring goals and preventing opponents from doing the same, the curriculum focuses on eight football-specific intentions such as maintaining possession, building and progressing play, and creating scoring opportunities. When contrasting the Talent Coach Programme with more traditional training methods, several key distinctions emerge:

1. Cyclical learning structure
The Talent Coach Programme organises learning around core themes or objectives that are consistent across all age groups. This cyclical approach ensures a deeper understanding and mastery of concepts as players progress through different stages of development. In contrast, traditional curricula often follow a linear learning sequence, prioritising isolated technical skills in the early stages before gradually introducing more complex game-like challenges as players develop.

Note: While the learning themes remain consistent across all age groups, the practice activities are tailored to each player’s developmental level. This ensures that players are exposed to age-appropriate challenges and opportunities for growth, fostering gradual progression in their football development.

2. Game-centred approach
The spiral curriculum of the Talent Coach Programme adopts a game-centric philosophy, prioritising football-specific tasks and challenges at every age level. It emphasises the development of tactical problem-solving, decision-making, and technical execution within the dynamic context of the game itself. In contrast, traditional methods frequently compartmentalise the game into technical, tactical, physical, or mental components, occasionally overlooking how these isolated aspects interact within the broader context of the game.

3. Player-centred learning
The Talent Coach Programme places the player at the heart of the learning process, tailoring instruction to address individual needs and developmental levels. Coaches are encouraged to regularly assess players’ progress and adapt their coaching methods accordingly. Conversely, traditional methods may adopt a more coach-centric approach, where learning is standardised and less flexible to accommodate the unique needs of each player.

What is the role of the coach?

Coaches play a crucial role in facilitating the learning process within the spiral curriculum framework. A key challenge is ensuring that players “spiral up” rather than getting stuck in repetitive exercises and behaviours. The coach’s responsibility is to support this growth by recognising individual learning thresholds and assisting players in overcoming these obstacles. This involves closely observing players, assessing their performance in relation to the game’s demands, and devising training interventions to enhance their ability to meet those demands ­– individually, as a unit and as a team. Talent Coaches follow a structured plan-do-review process to foster player development:

  • Observe and analyse performance

  • Formulate learning objectives

  • Plan and implement interventions

  • Review, evaluate and assess

  • Modify and repeat

How do football structures support development?

It is crucial to acknowledge that football possesses many inherent structures and mechanisms that, when leveraged effectively, foster cyclical learning by creating progressively more demanding environments: 

  • Continuous training and playing opportunities: Development requires regular participation. Individuals must have consistent opportunities to engage in football to advance their abilities continually.

  • Age-appropriate game formats: Smaller pitches and team sizes can simplify the game for younger players to match their current ability. By gradually expanding the size of the pitch, coaches can incrementally increase the game’s complexity.

  • Competition structure and development opportunities: Sorting players into teams and competitions based on their skill levels is a fundamental aspect of fostering growth. Whether through local leagues, regional associations or youth national teams, grouping players with similar abilities creates an environment conducive to collective improvement.

  • Maturation: As young players grow physically and mentally, they encounter new challenges and opportunities for development. Maturation inherently enhances players’ capabilities, enabling them to execute skills at higher levels than previously possible.

Next article coming soon

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