An Introduction to Long-Term Player Development

“Children do not learn in the same way as adults, especially when the learning process involves both intellectual and physical activity” ...Dr. Javier Perez, US Soccer Federation

We invite you to explore a Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) pathway for your child. Every young athlete's journey is different and unique to them and their ambitions, desires and sports preferences may change or fluctuate throughout their childhood. 

As a full-service soccer club serving players of all ages and ability levels, we offer many programs and playing options to meet the needs of every player. All of our programs are strategically designed to follow the LTPD process and ensure every player develops not only soccer-specific skills but a well-rounded athletic foundation that will serve them throughout their lives in a variety of sports and physical fitness activities. 

Begin With The End In Mind

From a soccer perspective, if our goal is to have skillful, creative and intelligent players at 15-18 years of age, then we must work our way back to each developmental stage and focus on developing the skills and tactical concepts best suited for that stage. The GC Soccer Curriculum provides age-appropriate content and methodologies to optimize player development at each critical stage in the youth players life from 4- to 18-years – there are no short-cuts to ball mastery or game intelligence!

By educating and committing ourselves to this long-term process, we can assure that every player has the opportunity to reach their own potential.  

Adopting an LTPD view will help you identify where your child is today and envision where they can be in the future with the guidance of a club that truly understands youth development. Enlisting the help of a youth club that understands LTPD, appreciates the benefits of multiple sports participation and works to develop the whole player will give your player the optimal chance for success without feeling like you are being left behind or missing out. 


Active Start Stage (Ages 3 - 4): The primary focus at this stage is to support the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional growth of young children through fun, creative, and imaginative programming. Children at this early age have developmental needs that are very different from those of older players, and thus require a learning environment that differs from “traditional” team sports programs. Available Programs: First-Touch, Micro.


FUNdamental Stage (Ages 4 - 7): At this stage, the top priorities are movement education, acquiring comfort with the ball and basic foot skills, and developing a love for the game. Young players need to develop basic physical literacy, with special emphasis on agility, balance, and coordination. Ball skills and technical development remain top of the agenda at this stage.

At these ages, young players are eager, active, and like to be on the go. These young players are starting to act more independently, but they still need parental approval, understanding, praise, and encouragement. Pushing too hard or expecting too much can result in the child becoming tense, nervous, or frustrated, ultimately leading to players dropping out of the game long before they can fulfill their potential. Available Programs: Micro, Jr. Rec, Academy.

Foundational Stage (Ages 8 - 9): The fundamental areas of focus at this stage include: ball mastery, learning how to train properly, and creating a foundation for teamwork. This foundational or “learning to train” stage is a crucial time for developing advanced competency in basic techniques and this platform allows for the introduction of more advanced skills.

  • Some basic tactical application of attacking and defending concepts can also be introduced.
  • Aerobic power should be introduced progressively after growth rate decelerates.
  • It is important that children are encouraged to take part in the unstructured play.
  • The main activities are developing ball control while learning how to solve problems individually and with their teammates. Players learn several new activities that create a foundation for their training environment as they progress over the years.
  • Different variations of passing & dribbling can build into higher level variations that help to develop technical abilities & combinational play.  

Available Programs: Jr. Rec, Academy.

Learning to Compete (Ages 10 - 11): As players reach this stage, we shift our focus to teaching small-sided and team-level tactical concepts while continuing to improve and expand each player's technical abilities. Players will be challenged to take more individual responsibility for their own development, as they must be working on their own outside of formal team training to reach their full potential as players. The areas of focus at this stage include the continuation of mastering the ball and learning the principles of play. The tactical principles of attacking & defending are introduced, including:  

· Principles of Attacking: Penetration, providing support, movement off the ball, width & depth, and improvisation/creativity.

· Principles of Defending: pressure & cover, delaying, balance/team shape, compactness, control & restraint (not diving in)

Some of these principles can be complicated for younger players, therefore at this stage of development, the focus is creating a foundation based on these principles to continue to build upon throughout older age groups.

Available Programs: Competitive, Sr. Rec

Training to Compete (Ages 12 - 13): The fundamental areas of focus here is developing tactical concepts of the game while continuing to develop technical abilities.

Training sessions will be similar to the previous stage with the areas of focus becoming more complex. We will continue to work on the development of fundamental and advanced individual skills. But players should receive more in-depth tactical instructions, particularly in understanding playing positions. Players should continue to experience different positions on the field but may begin to settle into a primary position. 

Players will receive more in-depth tactical guidance as they learn different systems of play and begin to specialize in specific positions. Players should continue to experience different positions on the field but may begin to settle into a primary position. 

Available Programs: Competitive 

Training to Win Stage (Ages 14 - 18): The final phase of preparation for our competitive youth players aims to maximize player performance in all aspects of the game. A player's capacities are becoming fully established while training to peak for major competitions.

Training is characterized by high intensity and relatively high volume with frequent periods of rest. Team tactics should form a significant part of practice sessions. Position training is important, and players should be prepared for a primary position. Physical conditioning is also important for all players and training should be tailored to the physical demands of their position on the field. 

Available Programs: Competitive

Active Lifestyle Stage (Ages 10-18 & up): The Active Lifestyle stage provides an entry point to the game for older players experiencing the game for the first time or for those who enjoy playing for fun but do not wish to participate at the competitive or travel level. The focus is on providing a fun, safe, and developmentally-appropriate recreational soccer environment for players of all ability levels. As their needs, ambitions change, they may move up to experience the competitive level or remain at the recreational level throughout.

Available Programs: Sr. Rec

Want to learn more about LTAD?

Long-Term Athlete DevelopmentIstvan Balyi, Richard Way and Colin Higgs

USOC American Development Model