FESA's Development Program Philosophy

Where Players Come First




United’s curriculum is based on the Building Block concept, where players are taught age and level specific skills in a progressive sequence. One of the key objectives of the curriculum is to provide a strong foundation with a step by step, progressive plan that enables players to achieve mastery of the ball and develop the tools and skills needed to play at a high level. Skills from one age group are utilized to build more advanced skills later in the continuum (age appropriate).

Although soccer is a team sport, its flow is characterized as a succession of individual duels. Team success hinges on the ability of players to win these individual duels. Hence, the aim is to develop players who can dominate their opponents and win the majority of their individual duels (1v1). Players who can dominate opponents are able to play at a high level, in any system and any formation, and are the type of players sought by top level coaches.



Players need technical, physical, tactical and psychological tools to win their duels. The technical tools are the foundation of soccer skills. Technique is the body’s mechanical execution of ball manipulation, such as receiving, dribbling, passing or shooting the ball. Technique leads to skill. Skill is the ability to select and execute the right technique under pressure of the game. So, technique has to do with ‘how to’ while skill has to do with ‘when and why'.

However, before a player can learn soccer techniques and skills, he/she must learn to control his body’s movement. Players must first develop the full range of locomotor (running, jumping, hopping, turning, etc) and nonlocomotor (pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, etc) movement skills before they can become adept at manipulative skills (such as thrusting or receiving the ball).  Manipulative skills are basically the eye-to-hand and eye-to-foot coordination. The SKILL curriculum, therefore, should progress from gross motor skills (locomotor and nonlocomotor) to fine motor skills to soccer technique to soccer skills.  



FESA recognizes that an integrated, academy-wide curriculum is the key for optimum player development. There must be a line that connects players through the age levels (e.g. U-3 to U-19), a line that everyone understands and follows. Without a curriculum, the player development process becomes disjointed, is difficult to monitor and evaluate, and players graduate with skill gaps. A deficit in one stage of the development process will tend to inhibit the acquisition of more complex skills at a later stage.


FESA will focus on developing skills that go beyond the mere concepts of attack and defense. It’s just as important to develop problem-solving skills, communication skills, leadership skills, and foster a positive self-image, a natural curiosity, and an independent, inquisitive mind. This is accomplished by creating an integrated academy-wide, age-specific curriculum that addresses progressively the following areas:


Character Development

1. Develop self-confidence.

2. Demonstrate the value of sportsmanship and humility.

3. Teach the value of hard work and perseverance.

4. Promote leadership and taking responsibility for one’s actions.

5. Teach respect for mentors and elders as well as opponents.

6. Promote academic education and school study.


Soccer Specific Skills

1. Teach individual technique and develop a comfort level with the ball.

2. Develop 1v1 skills that allow players to dominate opponents and win individual duels.

3. Develop tactical problem-solving skills.

4. Develop creativity, versatility, and adaptability.

5. Develop a self-reliant player who can make his/her own decisions on the field.


Fitness and Health

1. Develop a progressive program for long-term fitness.

2. Develop the core soccer fitness needs of speed, agility, strength, and stamina.

3. Teach and promote a healthy lifestyle with proper balance.

4. Develop a lifetime commitment to healthy living.

5. Teach nutrition and self-care.



In the Building Block approach, there are 4 main phases of individual player’s development:

1. Body & Ball Mastery Phase: Player and his/her ball (ages 3-16)

2. Individual Duel Phase: Player versus opponent (ages 6-18)

3. Partner Phase: Player and partner versus opponent (ages 8-18)

4. Team Phase: Player uses ball mastery to help the team


The starting ages for each phase depend on the natural ability and learning skills of the player and can vary from those recommended above. But failure to properly address each phase or skipping a phase or ‘fast-tracking’ players will result in under-developed individuals. Although each progressive phase starts at a different age, it’s important to note that the four phases eventually overlap. Once they start to overlap, one should not focus on a single phase at the expense of the other phases. The curriculum should allow for work on phases one, two and three to continue well into the teens and constantly be reinforced, refined and not be neglected once the Team Oriented Phase kicks in.  E.g. we never stop teaching and reinforcing a player’s 1v1 abilities and technical skills.