Fort Lauderdale Select FC is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to fostering the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of Fort Lauderdale’s youth through the sport of soccer at all age levels. Our job is to make it fun and instill a lifelong passion for the sport in young players and create positive environments that allow for individual player development from the competitive to professional level
The following principles provide us with guidelines to create an effective long-term structure for developing youth soccer players. In addition to enhancing the youth soccer environment, these principles create a foundation for sustainable future growth.
1. Accumulation of Hours & Number of Touches
Research suggests that it takes a player 10,000 hours of soccer-specific practice and play to reach high levels of expertise. Currently in the United States, our young players are not accumulating anywhere near these number of hours.
The Fort Lauderdale FC Development Framework focuses on providing players with more soccer opportunities that are tailored to develop the individual, more often. Structured soccer homework, regular skill evaluations motivate players to train on their own thereby receiving more touches on the ball and reach greater levels of technical proficiency. Particular attention is paid to the balance between soccer-specific deliberate practice (e.g. highly structured coach-led practice) and soccer-specific play (e.g. unstructured backyard soccer) throughout the player’s development.
2. Early Engagement
Research demonstrates that future professional and collegiate-level players begin playing soccer by the age of five, and that success is related to the accumulated hours of specific soccer training. However, rather than an early specialization model, FTLFC promotes an Early Engagement approach. During this period (4-12 years old), soccer-specific play is emphasized to promote guided discovery and develop ‘intelligent’ players.
This approach of channeling early Phases of Competition back onto the individual helps create intrinsic motivation and develops the love for the game. This will drive young players into more deliberate practice and commitment towards excellence at later stages of their development. Elements with the FTLFC Development Framework also focus on creating physically literate players with the fundamental skills to remain active for life.
3. Recognizing Developmental Age
The timing and tempo of child maturation varies greatly between individuals during growth. This is described as the difference between chronological and developmental age. Players may be of the same chronological age but differ by two to four years in their developmental age.
The FTLFC Development Framework encourages coaches to be aware of these individual differences when they design training programs and select players. Late developers should be given as much attention as early developers, so that no gifted players drop out or miss out on learning opportunities.
4. Training Emphasis Periods
The physiological systems of young players grow at different rates and times during development. To reach a players’ genetic potential, different fitness training components need to be emphasized at the correct period during a players’ development. The training periods are never completely shut, but improvement may not be optimal.
The FTLFC Development Framework is structured to provide periods of soccer-specific training without the distraction of competitive league games or back-to-back tournament play. During this period, players develop the technical and tactical foundations they need to play the game effectively and avoid the development of bad soccer habits.
5. Soccer Fitness
Due to the need for soccer-specific training and the often-small window of coach-player contact, physical training needs to be put into a soccer-specific context (e.g. interval training where players learn to recover from short bursts of speed while maintaining a jog). The Soccer Fitness component of the Framework is designed to create physically well-rounded players who possess the knowledge and physical base to remain injury free.
Soccer Fitness is constructed around the Training Emphasis Periods and Developmental Age principles to ensure that the physical intensity and methods of training are matched to players’ characteristics. This approach will also retain more players in the game as appropriate fitness training is related with reduced drop-out.
6. Four Pillars Approach
The gradual, progressive development of players is fundamental to their enjoyment, technical competency and retention in the game. Becoming a well-rounded and successful soccer player at the highest levels of competition requires a balance of mental, physical, and emotional factors, all of which must be fostered throughout a young player’s development. The Four Pillars
Approach requires an integration of the following elements:
1. TECHNICAL SKILL
2. TACTICAL UNDERSTANDING
3. PHYSICAL FITNESS
4. MENTAL & EMOTIONAL QUALITIES
Although priorities will vary during the player’s different phases of maturity, the Four Pillars model provides a basic framework for coaches.
7. Age Appropriate Games
Progression from 3 to 11-a-side games throughout the players’ development programs helps fulfilL the Four Pillars approach. The greater number of touches in small-sided games at a young age provides more opportunities for technical development and one-on-one situations. It also allows a greater number of games to be played on the same pitch simultaneously, giving all players the chance to play rather than being left on the sidelines and losing interest. Adapting the games and competition to the needs of the players is a key feature of any long term player development program.
8. Identification and Recruitment
Player development is dynamic and non-linear, and there are multiple pathways that young players may take. The FTLFC Development Framework aims to provide all players with the skills, knowledge and ability to decide for themselves where, and to what extent, they wish to take their soccer careers.
There are specific events and transitions in a player’s developmental pathway. The Framework is designed to maximize age-appropriate opportunities for players to participate in and be exposed to different environments in which they can be recognized.
FTLFC supports and club coaches are involved in the U.S. Olympic Development Program as well as in College programs and ID camps. Highly recognized guest coaches from the US and abroad are frequently used for guest sessions and additional player identification and evaluation.
9. Framework Integration and Alignment
Long-term development depends on an array of stakeholders, including the club, schools and family as well as programs that provide outside coaching. To optimize player development, the FTLFC Development Framework supports the cooperation of different clubs and institutions to create even greater opportunities for the players through a mutually supportive, clear in their roles, and aware of how they contribute to player development environment.
10. Coaching Education and Flexibility
Players will best develop in a coordinated system that is clearly defined and based upon consistent principles. Throughout their soccer career, players (and their parents) will be able to identify the opportunities available to them and understand the pathway they need to follow, whether their aim is excellence, personal improvement or recreational activity.
The FTLFC Development Framework is underpinned by recent academic research and best practices from leading soccer nations. Youth soccer is rapidly expanding in North America. The principles of youth development are dynamic and constantly growing. FTLFC will drive ongoing coaching education and will promote a greater knowledge and understanding of youth development. The club’s coaching staff will continue to take advantage of opportunities to learn and remain flexible to adapt to different methods and principles of coaching that have been proven to be successful internationally.
Truths About Young Athletes
At Fort Lauderdale FC, our most important priority is comprehensive player development. Becoming a well-rounded and successful soccer player at the highest levels of competition requires a balance of mental, physical, and emotional factors, all of which must be fostered throughout a young player’s development. Before discussing the Four Pillars of Player Development, it is important to understand a few basic truths about young athletes and competitive
1. Fun is Critical
If a young player is not having fun, they will not desire to excel.
2. Fundamental skill development is a crucial aspect of fun
It is more important than winning, even among the best athletes.
3. The most rewarding challenges are those that lead to self-knowledge
Self-knowledge that grows out of self-competition
4. Intrinsic rewards are more important in creating lifetime athletes than are extrinsic rewards
Victory or attention from others leads only to momentary fulfilment.
5. Success is a process, not a product
Success is something players take ownership of and in time it becomes personally meaningful.
6. Only passion for the game can lead to success.
Four Pillars of Player Development
1. Psychological Qualities
At Fort Lauderdale FC, we believe that the most essential quality for the success of any player is ATTITUDE. Many psychological qualities that people often think of when determining this aspect of a player’s development include mental toughness, drive, passions, motivation, dedication, and work ethic. But each of these traits is determined ultimately by the players’ attitude.
When evaluating a player’s attitude, we consider the following questions:
1. Does the player understand the importance of self-analysis and possess the desire to improve his or her performance?
2. Can the player take criticism and praise from coaches, teammates and spectators?
3. Does the player have the proper attitude at training (always training at 100%) and does the player possess positive training habits (nutrition, care and prevention of injuries, etc.)
4. Does the player possess the attitude to accept leadership responsibilities when needed and to follow another teammate’s leadership when necessary?
5. Does the player understand the importance of following the game plan for the match?
6. Can the player make choices that are good for the wellbeing of the team (tracking players, making runs without the balls, etc.)?
7. Can a player turn a weakness in their game into a strength?
8. Can the player enjoy soccer, both as a participant and a spectator?
9. Can the player exhibit the proper sportsmanship regardless of the final outcome of the match?
Players with the right attitude, regardless of their level of technical, tactical or physical development, are already half way to becoming a successful soccer player.
2. Technical Qualities
Quality of First Touch
A player needs to have the technical ability to receive any type of service (pass) from their teammates and even the opposition for that matter, and be able to handle it cleanly. The first touch can either take you out of a pressure situation or it puts you back into pressure from an opponent or space.
The ability to pass and strike a ball cleanly
A player should be able to pass a ball accurately with both feet as well as drive a ball over various distances to the intended target with the proper pace, height, and bend using proper technique (instep, outside of the foot, laces locked in ankle etc).
The ability to dribble, to penetrate and to maintain possession
The player should be able to dribble with all four surfaces of the foot, the sole, inside of the foot, instep and the outside of the foot. The player must be comfortable taking on players and in their ability to move at speed with the ball and to avoid challenges from opponents while still maintaining control/possession of the ball. Players at this level have some tactical understanding of when to hold the ball up/shield and wait for supporting players to combine with. They also have some tactical understanding of when to take a player(s) on to beat the opposition.
The ability to head the ball in attack and defense
A player should be able to effectively clear an incoming high ball with their head when defending, and pass and shoot with their head when on attack.
The ability to finish with their first touch
Of the five technical qualities mentioned, this may be the most difficult skill to master. The player must possess the ability to solve problems technically under intense pressure when receiving the ball close to their opponent’s goal. There are many variables a player encounters in this situation, such as the position of the goalkeeper, the flight and pace of the pass they are about to receive, the position of defending players, etc., which forces the player to immediately choose the appropriate technique with which to strike the ball.
3. Tactical Knowledge
Players must understand the importance and impact of communication in the game. Communication on the field usually occurs in two main forms (1) verbal, i.e. “drop in”, “stay on #7”, “open up” etc, (2) visual, i.e. player indicating which foot or side he wants to receive the ball, player pointing in a direction he wants a player to move or play into etc.
Communication is a key element of developing creative players, as it requires a highly technical proficiency to be able to take the eyes off the ball and assess situations. It also requires players to think on the field and develop constant opinions on game situations which will influence decisions by themselves as well as others. Communication needs to be taught and addressed from the youngest ages on to make it the most useful habit.
Understanding of transition play on both sides of the ball
• Transitioning from Defense to Offense
The player needs to understand their role when their team has just won the ball back. Their team may be looking to possess the ball and wait for more support, or they could be looking for quick penetration of their opponent’s defense. Players need to recognize when to make runs forward or when to provide width to give additional support to an attack.
• Transitioning from Offense to Defense
Players must understand the principles of defending. The first principal of defending upon losing possession of the ball is to apply immediate pressure.
The player closest to the ball should track down the player who gained possession and try to win it back or delay his/her play. The second principle of defending is to provide cover for the player that is applying immediate pressure. The third principle of defending is to provide and find balance defending. Players should have the ability to recognize situations where they must decide whether to help win the ball back immediately or delay and drop back towards their own goal.
Speed of Play / Rhythm of Play
The game is not a one way/one speed event. Players need to understand how to move the ball around the field while their team is in possession (i.e. the opposition is well organized and in good defensive shape) or how to attack quickly at the right opportunity (i.e. at a counter attack or out of a pressing moment, when the opposition is off balance and space is available). Sometimes the ball movements must be quicker than other time. Sometimes the ball needs to move to the left of the field to create an attacking opportunity down the right flank. Sometimes the play must be moved backwards into the team’s defending third before the ball can be successfully played into the team’s attacking third of the field.
To be successful, players need to be able to make quick tactical runs to support effective short passing. Players must also understand how and when to make long passes to maintain possession and allow the team to open up the game. Players need to know when to pass instead of dribble. Players should also understand when to apply pressure, how to compact during defense, and be able to assist their team in controlling the pace and a rhythm of the game.
Ability to read the game
Players both on the ball and those who are off the ball are faced with making split-second tactical decisions in an environment that is constantly changing over the course of the game. A player should always “read the game”, anticipate and have an opinion on every play of the game to consistently make right decisions whether they are on the attack or on the defense.
When in the attack, players should be able to understand: (1) when to hold the ball; (2) when and how to combine with other players; (3) when to change position on the field either with the ball or in support of the attack; (4) when to go for the quick counter-attack or when to build up slowly; (5) the importance of knowing what type of pass and at what pace the pass is needed; (6) when to change the point of attack.
When defending, players should understand: (1) the importance of communication during critical moments of the game, such as transitioning from attacking to defense; (2) when and how to close down an opposing player’s space; (3) how and when to delay penetration or disrupting play of the opponent and being aware of the consequences of making poor decisions during the game.
A player who can read the game well does not have to be the fastest or the fittest player on the field. This player usually has a solid technical base, is one who is comfortable on the ball and handles the pressure of time, space and opponents consistently well. Learning the skill of reading the game and developing a feel for the rhythm and pace of the game is a process and takes time (more for some than for others). A great tool to enhance the development for young players is to regularly watch the game whether it is live or on TV.
Understanding the importance of restart situations
Almost a third of all goals scored are a direct result of restart situations or set pieces. Players need to understand what their responsibilities are during various set pieces (free kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, etc.). In defensive game situations, player need to understand: (1) how to stop short corner kicks attempted by opponents; (2) positioning in general and covering near and far posts while defending corner kicks; (3) how to hold a defensive line on a free kick and who is responsible for it when the situation occurs; (4) how to be disciplined enough to carry out their responsibilities in defending restarts, such as setting up a wall and communicating with the goalkeeper, being the first player in the wall, tracking players, attacking the ball, etc.; (5) how to be aware of where and how to clear a ball when defending set plays; and (6) that committing unnecessary fouls in or around your defensive third can cost your team the match (this includes the ability to withstand being baited by their opponent into any action that can cause a mental lapse).
In offensive game situations, players need to understand (1) positioning in general and specific runs on corner- and free kicks, (2) areal responsibilities on the field at corner- or free kicks (including defensive positioning for possible transitional moments), (3) realization of the correct game situation on a throw in i.e. quick restart with a higher risk vs a delayed and controlled restart, (4) correct supporting positions on a throw in, i.e. runs checking to the ball, runs off the ball, positioning in space etc.
4. Physical Qualities
Players should develop and possess physical qualities such as speed or pace, a high work rate, endurance and core strength. The merits of the physical component in soccer might not outweigh the importance of a solid technical base and thorough tactical understanding for the player but will certainly complement each other. Players must possess a physical ability, which works to enhance their technical ability and allow for tactical decisions to be executed at the necessary speed of play.
Player endurance / Work rate
A real player does not play soccer to get fit; a player must be fit to play soccer. The one aspect of a players development that they have absolute control over without anyone’s help, is their own fitness level. When evaluating players, coaches will either notice that a player is fit, or they are not. It is that simple.
One way to improve a player’s conditions is through Speed Endurance Training. There are generally two types of Speed Endurance Training: (1) Production training; and (2) Maintenance training.
Production training involves training exercises that are for short periods of time (20 to 40 seconds). The rest periods range from 2-4 minutes, and the players are always working at a high level of intensity. Maintenance training involves training exercises that are for longer periods of time (30 to 120 seconds). The rest intervals should be as long as the exercise period that was used and the player will become progressively more fatigued as the work-to-rest ratio cycles continue.
Agility consists of a player’s balance, coordination, reflexes, speed and strength. A player needs to possess all of these traits in order to successfully: (1) change direction with or without the ball; (2) execute technical skills on the ball; (3) quickly move forward to close down an opponent; (4) move sideways or backwards during transitional moments; (5) react after losing balance or being knocked to the ground.
Players with quick starting speeds create significant advantages for themselves. These players have the necessary explosiveness to chase down or overtake an opponent. The first 3 to 4 steps that a player takes in the various competitive soccer situations are generally more crucial than the later steps.
The first person to get to the ball is not always the faster player. Players need to have a combination of good starting speed (explosiveness) as well as speed of thought (tactical speed and the ability to anticipate).
Essential Training Habits
Players must have a good understanding of hydration and nutrition, proper warm-up and cool-down and knowledge of prevention and care of common soccer injuries. Proper hydration and nutrition is vital given the constant physical demands of soccer. Players must begin each training session or game properly hydrated as well as maintaining hydration throughout the session. For more information about proper hydration, see our US Youth Soccer Heat and Hydration Guidelines
Players must also understand how important proper nutritional habits are to enhancing their performance. Players should have pre-workout high-carbohydrate meals two to three hours before training sessions or games and a carbohydrate rich snack within 30 minutes of finishing the training or game.
Properly warming up before training sessions and games is crucial to ensuring quality performance and avoiding injury. Players should have knowledge of dynamic stretching exercises, and how to move the body from light jogging to short sprints just prior to beginning a game or session. Players should also understand the importance of properly cooling down after training or games. A proper cool down is critical to a faster recovery time.
Our focus at Fort Lauderdale FC is on long-term individual player development. We strive to give each player the skill set, knowledge and experience necessary to decide for themselves where, and to what extent, they wish to take their soccer careers. As coaches, our goal is to step away and be able to say “you make the decision”. Becoming a well-rounded and successful soccer player at the highest levels of competition requires a balance of mental, physical, and emotional factors, all of which must be fostered throughout a young player’s development.
The long-term goal is to develop players who have a lifelong passion and love for the game. Fort Lauderdale FC aims to build an effective structure for soccer development by following three main objectives.
Increase player numbers & skill levels from a young age
- Develop a structure for youth players built on long term player development principles.
- Adopt an early engagement approach to enhance the joy of soccer and to support players falling in love with the game.
- Provide more structured opportunities to accumulate more soccer hours through homework, evaluations and deliberate practice environments.
- Recognize players’ development and achievements through a Player Recognition Program, regular evaluations and continuous individual feedback to motivate players and develop good training ethics.
Retain participants in soccer for life
- Deliver high quality soccer experiences for all participants at all levels in the game.
- Provide more soccer opportunities specifically tailored to individual players’ needs based on their motivations, aspirations and ability levels.
- Educate more coaches on the importance of comprehensive player development over building teams for the sake of winning games and playing in tournaments.
- Bring well-qualified coaches from across the United States and Internationally to our club to provide players with exposure to a greater range of coaching styles and expertise in the game.
More College and Professional Players
- Develop a high-quality player development infrastructure for the development of College-level players.
- Provide opportunities for players to train with and be identified a wide variety of professional and collegiate level coaches.
- Provide opportunities for more young players to compete at the National levels in the United States.
- Inspire more young players to compete in the highest men’s and women’s professional leagues in the United States and internationally.
Academy Program (ages 8 -12, U9-U12)
The mission of the Fort Lauderdale FC Academy Program is to provide the best possible coaching and instruction for our young players to ensure proper development of individual skill and technique and to introduce the team concepts involved in the game. The Academy’s experienced coaching staff emphasizes technical, tactical and physical development while encouraging individual creativity and expression.
The Academy’s focus is on proper individual and team training. The Club is less concerned with winning matches at these ages than with ensuring proper skill development for future success. Our goal is to teach our young players a love of the game of soccer. We do this by providing a fun, constructive learning environment and allow our players to grow more confident in their abilities
At Fort Lauderdale FC we recognize that competition is a central element in a player’s development. At the youth level, however, a competitive environment should not be a solely result-oriented environment. The differences must be clear. Our club provides an environment that encourages decisions from player and coach alike with the focus on performance rather than just outcome (favoring ball skill and inventiveness as the means to find success within the rules and spirit of the game). The result is just one indicator of performance and at this age, not the most important one. No good coach will ever ask a player if they won a U10 championship or a U12 tournament, but what they will ask is, if they have the technical, tactical, physical and mental ability to play oat the next level.
We recognize that matches are an important means to player development (enjoyment, ball skill, insight, competitiveness and fitness). The games are a series of tests for kids. In this respect, the usefulness of the game can occur in many different forms. As a coaching staff, we encourage parents to focus on the process and performance rather than the outcome, but be prepared for the possibility that your team may lose many games in the short term with this approach. Keep in mind also that it is actually easier to win games at this age group with teams that are “organized” but lack skill. Placing the more physically mature players down the middle of the field and just asking players to ‘kick it down the middle or only allowing players to specialize at one position may lead to more victories. This approach, however, does not effectively teach the players the game and prepare them to continue in the sport. Instead, a skillful approach to playing soccer should be emphasized, even though this may result in conceding goals or losing games in the short term. During the learning process, ball control and passing can lead to more costly mistakes. At the same time, the coach can manipulate the level and variety of the competition to ensure that players and teams are being given the opportunity to win and to lose games. Valuable lessons can be learned in both scenarios. In the end, it is still the responsibility of the coach and the parents, to manage how competition is addressed and managed among his or her players.
What is the Academy Program?
Academy programs have emerged as a 21st century alternative to the frustrating shortfalls in soccer development displayed by most pre-teens. This void is heavily influenced by coaching quality and the pressures to win at critical periods in the development process.
Academy programs seek to improve individual player development, satisfaction and retention, and to build a less pressured youth soccer environment for coaches, adult spectators, and match officials.
Why choose the Academy?
- Experienced Staff:Our Coaching Staff possess extensive soccer knowledge, coaching and playing experience.
- Highest Emphasis Placed on Player Development:Fort Lauderdale FC players develop individual skills and an understanding of the team game, in an enjoyable format. Players are trained using proven coaching methods found in the United States Soccer Coaching Curriculum and will compete in a league chosen to stretch their abilities.
- Technique & Skill Are Emphasized; Tactics & Teamwork Are Introduced:The structure (but not the content) of our Academy training sessions will be similar to that of our older players. The main component of the Academy sessions will emphasize technical training. However, at these ages, a child’s capacity to solve problems increases significantly. Players will begin working on self-solving basic, dynamic tactical scenarios through small-sided games, in addition to improving his/her individual skills and technique.
Elite Competitive Program (ages 12 – 19, U13 – U19)
Fort Lauderdale FC’s competitive program has been one of the fastest growing in South Florida. Our teams compete at the local, state, regional and national levels. We are dedicated to developing our players to compete at all levels with an emphasis on individual player and team growth on and off the field.
We offer professional coaching and training for boys and girls ages U13 to U19. Our teams play in the South Florida United Youth Soccer League, Florida State Premier League, Region III Premier League, as well as tournaments throughout the State and Country. The season for the competitive program runs from August through May. Teams in the Elite Competitive Program train a minimum of 3 times during the week with possible additional training activities or game(s) on weekends.
Our main facilities are the newest soccer complex in South Florida which is located at Mills Pond Park with 3 brand new lid turf fields. The complex will be the site for the majority of home games played. Our club also utilizes the Fort Lauderdale Stadium complex and Central Broward Regional Park throughout the season.
Depending on the number of qualified players who try out, we may have multiple teams in an age group. If there are two teams the players will be divided into a blue team (more advanced players) and a white team (the developmental team). Coaches will decide on which players play on each team, and a roster spot on a particular team will not guaranteed. It is common for coaches to shuffle players between the top team and their developmental team to give players experience at different levels of play. It is also common to have advanced players occasionally play in an older age group (“play up”) based upon their skills and the needs of the team.
Exposure through club soccer is the #1 recruiting tool for college coaches across the country. We strive to create the best environment for the development of all our players. This means participation of our teams in top level tournaments and college showcases as well as assistance and preparation for our players to gain exposure in ID programs such as Olympic Development Program, ID’3, Youth National Team Training Centers as well as College ID camps. Through our coaches and volunteers our club maintains and continues to grow our relationships with college coaches around the country.
A measure of our success is our return rate for competitive players and the number of players that already have received college opportunities in our young history (2017 only marks the second graduation year). Much of our success is due to the quality and professionalism of our staff and coaches who are recognized leaders in the soccer community that remain students of the game and continue their own development through the various levels of coaching education.