Burnley FC academy: multi-sport philosophy

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The Foundation Phase programme at Burnley’s academy is adopting a unique approach to young player development.

The programme has introduced a play-based element that includes playground games, futsal and multi-sports in an attempt to increase creative returns.

These hugely enjoyable activities are designed to lead to a greater capacity and capability in all areas of development. The rich variety of movements, technical actions and decision-making in these activities can help to develop highly skilled players and well-rounded, confident young people.

Graphic showing Burnley FC's Foundation Phase carousel approach.
Burnley's carousel approach for their Foundation Phase players.

To help your understanding of this approach, Ash Higgins, Foundation Phase lead at the club, has outlined their key priorities for young player development.

Foundation Phase philosophy: Playing philosophy

Love the ball - we want to expose the children to dealing with the ball in a variety of environments, but the message is clear: love having the ball and be exciting when in possession.

Coaching Philosophy

Children love the game, coaches love the children - the coaching programme has to enthuse the child to want to come back and develop a love of the game. We do what they like, as well as what we think they need. (We don’t get many of the ‘when are we having a game’ questions).

We are looking:

  • to develop a love of the game in our players and for them to become creative thinkers
  • to promote active learning within various environments leading to independent decision-making
  • to produce players that have complete control of their body and have both capacity and capability through a multi-movement programme (physical flexibility and adaptability)
  • to help players deal with the stresses of games and learn how to cope in these situations (psychological robustness).

To help provide a variety of experiences we have introduced the following to our games programme:

  • Variety of opposition – grassroots football clubs, English category 1-3 academies and international teams.
  • Variety of formats such as 3v3, 4v4, futsal, 6v6, 7v7, 8v8 and 9v9.
  • Different pitch sizes – futsal, 30x15, 7v7 small and tight or long and wide.
  • Themed games nights – World Cup shirt night, powerplay, in and out of balance, and inter-club formats.
  • Two games programme days and two training programme days per week for each age group.
  • Futsal on a six-week cycle.
  • Competitive festivals each half-term.
Burnley's carousel approach

Our programme adds value to overall development through:

  • a holistic approach – multi-sports in our programme adds the confidence to learn other sports as well as physical and psychological experimentation
  • trips abroad – provides social development within their group but also experiences of language and cultures in other countries
  • a fun and varied games programme allowing players to experiment within different games and helping them to develop their personal learning within each format
  • having a ‘leadership team’ in each age group who sets and reinforces positive behaviour and also helps to set a culture of behaviour within the phase
  • allowing the freedom to be expressive and ensuring ball-rolling time and enjoyment is at a maximum.

To learn more about Foundation Phase DNA, click here.

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