This text is published as Appendix 3 in the Pre-Course Information of the FA Youth Award – Module 1 course.

The train-ability of children describes how the developing individuals respond to training. The factors that might affect this are related to their stage of development and their subsequent readiness for a particular type of training. The best results will be from a programme that matches the right activities to the appropriate stage of development.


The speed and the extent of a training adaptation are partly dependent upon heredity. Everyone does not possess the same capacity to adapt to training. Because of individual differences, training programmes must take into account specific needs and abilities and therefore be flexible and adaptable.


The effect of training is specific to the type of training undertaken, its volume, intensity, and duration.

Training therefore, must be geared to the relevant energy systems, muscle groups, and ranges of movements. Training programmes preparing young players for football should reflect the demands of the game and the stage of development that the players are at.


The effects of training are reversible: if training is infrequent or not sufficiently intensive, the training effects will diminish.

If you don’t use it – you lose it.

Progressive Overload

Overload and progression form the foundation of all physical adaptation training. To overload an organ system it must be loaded beyond the point to which it is normally loaded. The intensity, duration and frequency of training sessions should be increased in a logical and reasonable progressive fashion. The greater fitness a player displays, the higher the level of exercise that may be needed to create an overload.

Frequency: How often to perform the type of exercise?

Frequency incorporates the principles of regularity and recovery.

Intensity: How hard to exercise?

Intensity incorporates the principles of overload and progression.

Duration: How long the exercise sessions should be?

Time also incorporates the principles of overload and progression.

Type: What types of activities train each component?

Type incorporates the principles of specificity and variety.

There exists a degree of overlapping between the components of fitness. Without the necessary attributes, individuals playing at the highest level are unlikely to be able to cope with the demands placed on them.

By developing an understanding of:

  • energy transfer
  • the effects of specific training on the systems of energy delivery and utilisation
  • the time course for adaptations to occur as a result of either training or de-training

it will be possible to devise a sound training programme with the aim of achieving optimum performance.


Implications for the coach of younger players.

A training programme for a child under 10 years old should be directed towards neuromuscular development and skills, (the FUNdamentals) and to a gradual, modest increase in aerobic and anaerobic power (this aspect will develop anyway if the child is exposed to the right kind of activity).

Specialisation should be discouraged (let the child play lots of sports) and general development is stressed as it gives the child a great foundation for future improvement.

The retention and improvement of skill may well depend on the activities served up by the coach. To improve ball mastery the child has to be in contact with the ball for long periods. To develop game play the children have to be in realistic game like situations. There is no short cut! The ability to perform football related skills will diminish unless the coach can create practices that give the players lots of opportunities to practice relevant things, (long queues of players waiting to pass to the coach so that they can shoot does not reflect the game and more productive activities should be done).

Most nerve structures and most FUNdamental movement patterns are well established by 6 to 8 years of age, so it might be expected that these ages would be ideal for specific instruction and practice in the basic motor skills.

Flexibility work, where appropriate, should be introduced between 10 and 12 years, and between 12 and 14 years a successive increase in aerobic and anaerobic endurance and speed may be added.

Match the activity to the stage of development.