Development is a beautiful and squiggly line

Club Academy
Check out our weekly column from Paul Holocher the Head of Academy, Methodology at Christchurch United FC

Development is a beautiful and squiggly line
At the heart of our club is our values. The simple idea that through sport, young people are learning more
than just how to be an athlete, they are learning respect, discipline, unity, intelligence, passion and
responsibility, all values important to help them towards their dreams. These club values, along with our
innovative and growth mindset, have helped guided us to develop some of the top young players in the

But our goals are to develop more than just excellent footballers. Our goal is much greater. It is to help
develop young people of good and strong character. To do this we must realize that development is never a straight-line trajectory to the top of the mountain, but often a squiggly line; one filled with many turns and setbacks and victories along the way.It is a beautiful and squiggly line.

Along the way, setbacks are an opportunity to learn and grow and victories come in many forms beyond
the scoreboard. A wonderful victory may be seeing a young Juniors team successfully pass the ball
throughout the field, leading to an excellent chance to score. It may be seeing a young player, perhaps
timid at the beginning of the season, putting all their efforts to successful defend their goal. It could be
seeing a group of young academy players deal with defeat but stick to their process and continue to
improve. It could be an older academy player maturing into a wonderful mentor to the other young
players in the club. It could be seeing another use these skills as they go on to achieve their goal of
playing for the All-Blacks, a University, First Team, or Professional football.

Each developmental age is different, but throughout the years, our club’s overriding efforts are to
maintain a healthy balance of achieving short-term victories, along with our long-term developmental

Below is snapshot of our club’s philosophy on development throughout the ages:

Learning the Game: Juniors Phase (U9-U12)
In the Juniors Phase, U9 to U12, our developmental objectives are quite simple; support and accelerate
the player’s technical development, improve their game understanding, inspire home development, and
develop a ‘love for the game.’ All players should receive many minutes to play and develop in the

Learning How to Play: (U13/U14)
In the younger Academy Phase, U13 and U14, our developmental objectives are to teach players how to
play the game well, by learning various principles of play and TOVO Methodology. We continue to ensure
that each player is receiving ample match minutes that are so important for both player development and
evaluation. We always look to be competitive on the scoresheet, but at these ages our emphasis is on the
importance of strong training habits. During highly competitive matches or tournaments, the players may
not all play the same amount, but they are expected to support the team and be ready to make a positive
impact in every opportunity, and as a club we look to create many playing opportunities for them.

Learning How to Compete: (U15/U17/U20)
In the older Academy Phase, U15, U17, and U20, our developmental objectives are to accelerate
development in a high-performance environment. We continue to ensure that each player is receiving ample match minutes, but now we teach players the importance of ‘competing for their playing time’
which comes through the consistency of their training habits, but also the quality of their match
performances. During highly competitive matches or tournaments, players may not all play the same amount, but each supports the team and is ready to make a positive impact at each opportunity.

Of course, achieving all these goals, along with everyone’s desire to see each child play, develop, and win
a game on the weekend, is always a balancing act. It requires a healthy perspective on both the short and
long-term objectives. It requires a combination of positivity and grit: the ability to maintain effort through
inevitable ups and down of the developmental pathway, and along that beautiful and squiggly line.

We are thankful for all our wonderful Christchurch United FC Parents and Families for continuing to be
shining examples of how positivity and sportsmanship on the sidelines, and through all the ups, downs,
dips, and exhilarating climbs, will truly lead to a journey to the extraordinary.