There has been much discussion recently about the impact and effect of the National Curriculum on Australian football.

When Rob Baan and subsequently Han Berger took up the role of Technical Director, it was a role that many people didn’t and still don’t understand. In a nutshell, the role is to ensure the best systems are in place to enable Australian football to have maximum success.

Very early on it was obvious to them that the entire coaching structure needed to be revamped. There was no consistency or uniformity of approach, resulting in huge disparities in the quality of coaching that our next generation of players were receiving.

Although Australian players were noted as being mentally strong with a positive preference for an open, attacking style of play, they were seen as technically deficient and lacking in tactical maturity in comparison to their global peers. A need was identified to develop creative, match-winning players, as the top teams always have two or more of them.

An exhaustive research project was undertaken on a global scale to look into best practices, which could be transplanted to Australia.

Andy Harper went to Japan, North and South America, while Alistair Edwards went to Europe. They visited various clubs and football associations to learn more about their junior development, coaching pathways and accreditation methods.

After absorbing all the expert information, FFA decided the style of football best suited to the Australian mentality and strengths would be a proactive 1-4-3-3 system.

Why? In this possession-based system there are three lines of players with a balanced spread over the pitch (triangles of players). This an important condition for manicured positioning play when playing out from the back, attempting creative and varied attacking play using the width of pitch, and early disturbing of opposition by pressing opponents after losing possession.

After recently being involved with the B License course, I feel able to offer an insight into what is actually going on, rather than just joining the masses of armchair critics who may not necessarily have all the information they need to make an informed judgement on the merits of the FFA approach.

There seems to be two big misconceptions when people have criticised the National Curriculum.

The first is that we are naively following a single system, a strict “Dutch” pathway that doesn’t allow for deviance or tweaking. This is fundamentally incorrect. The Dutch are not the only the nation in the world who have favoured this system in recent times.

It should be noted that the majority of teams at Euro 2012 used a similar system, or a version of it. Of course, there is a strong Dutch influence, having had Guus Hiddink and Pim Verbeek as national team coaches in recent times, in addition to Baan and Berger.

The second criticism is that we are going to produce robots that all play the same away. Again, this is incorrect.

When taking your C and B licence, coaches are taught the possession-based system. One of the main reasons is that is viewed as the best and most flexible way to coach players in such a way as to allow them to understand fit into other systems. It produces intelligent, mobile players.

In the A and Pro Licence, it’s up to the individual coach what formation to use. This advanced stage also incorporates detailed football conditioning specific training from Raymond Verheyen, a global leader in his highly specialised field of football physiology.

As players, we believe we know a lot about football. But from experience I can say we know very little about coaching; therefore the course prepared by Han Berger and fellow FFA employee, Kelly Cross (Head of Coach Education) are so important and invaluable for a developing coach.

I have just scraped the surface on what you learn on the FFA coaching courses. The outcome is that coaches here in Australia are learning how to coach at a very high and professional level.

They have been taught to put a vision and philosophy together, which gives a coach a clear direction and understanding of what he wants to achieve and how to achieve it.

Not just how to conduct an effective training session (though, of course, this is crucial), but also detailed knowledge about football fitness, how to analyse a game, man-management, etc. The list goes on.

These are the important questions and the answers, based on my experience of the FFA’s coaching courses:

Will we all play the same way? No.
Will we produce top quality players in the future? Yes.
Will we have top quality local coaches coming through? Yes.
Is Australian football heading in the right direction? Yes.

Good coaching at every level, not just the high professional end, is crucial to the future of our game.

The Youth C Licence course that Kelly Cross is currently writing aims to help develop better Youth Development coaches in this country and hopefully that will lead to more of those players that we need. The course will be rolled out early next year and will complement the work being done by the newly created Skills Acquisition Coaches through the country

Like many others, I was initially sceptical about the new era. It’s a natural reaction to be suspicious of and resistant to change. But believe me, if you have the opportunity to experience the modern coaching methods of FFA’s new world-class approach, you would buy into what Han Berger, Kelly Cross and the FFA are doing as much as I have done.

The National Curriculum is what the game has been crying out for here. Let’s give it a chance to bed down and witness its benefits, rather than making ill-informed criticisms of something that is a positive step in trying to advance Australian football.

Become a convert. If I can change, anyone can.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia.
Comments (11)
Right path?? The recent announcement regarding football coverage coupled with a concerted effort in developing junior players via SAP and other development programs, certainly gets a big YES! But for all the positive spin, more needs to be done. Unless a junior player 9+ is ridiculously exceptional - it is now a case of 'if you can pay - you can play'. Football has become the domian of the wealthier parents. Remember FFA - the life blood of Brazilian and African football are the ghettos! SAP $1600 Youth $2500??? A generation of footballers are now thrown into the dust bin if they don't make the SAP squads from 9+.... Many parents do not even try when they realise the cost! AFL and NRL gains...
Karl  |  
20 Nov 2012 09:55 AM
Thomas Ban asked? - "The National Curriculum sounds great and is a positive for coaches but how do you ensure that the right kids are being selected to be coached. Current selection methods seem to favour the fastest and strongest and not the more technically gifted players that are not yet physically developed. These kids will surpass the others when they do catch up physically but only if given quality coaching." THE STRUCTURE OF THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM DOESN'T 'COACH' THE PLAYERS DIRECTLY - IT SEEKS TO EDUCATE COACHES (BOTH MEN'S & WOMEN'S) WHO DESIRE TO BECOME FULLTIME SENIOR PROFESSIONAL COACHES THROUGH TO FULLTIME JUNIOR PROFESSIONAL COACHES DOWN TO THE AMATEUR COACHES WHO THEN GO BACK TO THEIR CLUBS & EDUCATE (COACH) THE PLAYERS. I JUST HOPE THAT THIS PROFESSIONAL APPROACH IS EXTENDED TO BOTH FUTSAL & BEACH FOOTBALL COACHING WHICH ALSO DESPERATELY NEEDS A SERIOUS OVERHAUL.
Jack  |  
19 Nov 2012 11:37 AM
Great article, Ross - very informative. A few comments in response to some of the previous posts. 1. Selection of youngsters is an ongoing issue and needs to improve, but it isn't a perfect science globally. Steven Gerrard wasnt picked up the elite UK Lilleshall program back in the day, and Kevin Keegan was rejected as being ttoo small by several clubs before making the breakthrough. 2. Those who crticise the cost of the coaching courses - it costs the FFA a lot to run these things. Staff, facilities, materials, etc. You need to invest in yourself re: traijning in many other occupations - why should coaching be any different?
Trevor Evans  |  
19 Nov 2012 11:09 AM
The National Curriculum sounds great but bring your cheque book along with as it costs an arm and a leg to be able to coach our youth to a higher level these days. It is doomed to fail. I have never seen a rich person coach in the youth level where it really matters
Pete  |  
18 Nov 2012 09:28 PM
This article should be posted on every Aussie football website there is. I see so much internet winging about the national curriculum but none of these people ever seem to actually bother to find out what the real deal is. Same with the changes to state premier league rules. There was so much winging around about how this would ruin everything, but it seemed like hardly anyone had actually bothered to have a quick breeze through the national competitions review. That's one thing the FFA could definitely get much better at: getting the info out there and in people's faces.
Dave  |  
18 Nov 2012 01:03 PM
I have to agree 100%. We have great people executing and delivering the curriculum. The more people we have get on board the faster we will get to our destination of being a leader in the world game.
Michael Mantikos  |  
18 Nov 2012 11:39 AM
The Nstional Curriculum?? shudders, its a great idea and long overdue, but can we come up with a better and more exciting name for it than this, this country is education obsessed!
James  |  
18 Nov 2012 08:29 AM
Ross is 100% right. I recently coached a U11 futsal team made up of some kids from the SAP. One of them executed a full pace maradona & popped the ball in the corner. None of my club's senior players could do this. I just saw the same trick in the A league for the first time. The next generation of players are going to have great technical skills (and be just as fit & strong). We just need the coaches in the junior rep system to follow the spirit of the National Curriculum and not try to win at all costs. Incidentally, the SAP allows kids born in the last quarter to play in the age group below if they are small to offset the age related effect.
Ian Clarke  |  
17 Nov 2012 10:42 PM
The system may be great and I don't know anything about coaching, but I still have a feeling at the end of the day that just like Pim Verbeek took off Harry and started us against Germany with no striker that Holger is going to do the same and leave off Tom Rogic, Oar etc and put on Jade North and Thwaite and make no substitutions even when it's hot and the players are tired. I want us to win the WC and I believe we have the talent to do it, but we need a better coach. It doesn't matter if we have 1000 coaches knowing this and that if Holger picks the worst team. Why are Pim and Holger so proud ? Why didn't Frank Lowy or someone step in before Germany match and say "Listen Pim, if you don't play Harry, you're fired !". Have we not learnt anything ? I like your articles Ross, but please, if you can, can you see that it is not left up to one man that Australia's chances can be ruined by Holger at the WC just like Pim Verbeek did, otherwise everything else is a waste of time. Let's win the WC and have no excuses. I prefer Aussie coaches.
Lester  |  
17 Nov 2012 03:07 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with Ross. I got on board over 2 years ago and have had the privilege of seeing the changes first hand. Like Ross though, I realise that coaches (including me), players, parents and all stakeholders in the game have a lot more to learn and improve on. Can selectors always ensure they get it right? Of course not, no-one is perfect and we can all have different opinions. At the U13/U14 Nationals in Coffs Harbour this year some of the kids were tiny, some were big (but maybe that's because I'm tiny), but they were intelligent, technically gifted and have been encouraged to make decisions on their own. If these kids are being turned into robots then, in my opinion, they are the scary `super computer' types that are being `wired up' to determine their own `operating systems' by quality coaches that can see the future. It will take more time Thomas, but it IS changing and my advice...get on board with Ross and the rest of us...and there's plenty of room so don't forget to tell your friends!.
Stuart Simpson  |  
16 Nov 2012 07:03 PM
The National Curriculum sounds great and is a positive for coaches but how do you ensure that the right kids are being selected to be coached. Current selection methods seem to favour the fastest and strongest and not the more technically gifted players that are not yet physically developed. These kids will surpass the others when they do catch up physically but only if given quality coaching.
Thomas Ban  |  
16 Nov 2012 03:14 PM
How far will Western Sydney go in the AFC Champions League?