In the Performance Phase (PP) we look to challenge our players individually and as a group. With long-term player development at the front of everything we do as a club, in the Foundation Phase (FP), we were teaching the players in a fun yet challenging way to ‘train to love the game.’ In the Youth Development Phase (YDP), our U13-U14 players start to advance their tactical knowledge around the game as they ‘train to understand the game.’ Now, we ‘train to win the game’. 

As players reach the 15-19-year-old age range, each needs to be challenged to push themselves further for their teammates and as individuals. As players are moved to new positions, the formation and overall playing time are awarded based on the competitive edge. 

As the Performance Phase coaching staff, we work closely with our players and the club’s phase coaches to continually adjust our approach to development to ensure each player coming through the full pathway is prepared to reach their highest potential and goals within soccer. 

We aim to create a whole person, whether they decide to try out for our First Teams, play in college, or stop playing altogether. No matter what path they take, we want to be there to support their ambitions. Here’s how we do that for our 16-19-year-old players:

Performance Phase Focus

The Performance Phase is the final phase of the Academy Program. During this phase, players are in their high school program and begin training to compete and ultimately prepare for college or professional playing opportunities.

Our main aim at this phase is to help the players reach the desired level of their choice. At this point, players usually know if they want to play collegiately. It’s OK if a player does not, and as a coaching staff, we ensure we know each individual’s goals so we can continue to aid in their development to meet those goals.  

Training Focuses for the Performance Phase

As players progress through the phases he/she will be exposed to new/different ideas. The idea is to layer on the skills in the right order, as it relates to their age and learning ability. Here is a breakdown of what players can expect their training structure to look like: 

Training Sessions in the PP

With tactics shifting to the main focus in our sessions, we still hit each of the pillars for development that were emphasized in the FP and YDP. This alignment is further emphasized by maintaining our 6 team targets (playing out from the back, team defending, transitions, ball circulation, pressing, chance creation) that define our style of play.

While players are more honed in on specific positions at this point in their playing cycle, we are engaging every player at every possible opportunity within games and sessions. This requires additional guided learning, as were used in the previous phases, that makes them think and react over critical points in the game. We do not give them the answer, they have to work to figure it out as a group or individually. 

Within sessions, we use two coaches — one as lead and one as a support (ghost) coach that will manage the opposition of whatever that session’s target is. For example, if the main aim of the session is playing out from the back for our defensive and midfield units, our attacking unit focuses on their team defending. With our lead and support coach (ghost coach) approach, each individual and group of individuals within the team are able to develop from each session — even when the aim of the session isn’t on their unit. 

Opportunities to Play Collegiately 

Per the phase name, college recruiting is an important part of our phase. Aside from ensuring technical, tactical, physical, and psychosocial preparation, we feel it’s important to give both players and parents information to aid their journey — from college coach Information sessions to recruiting profiles, to college showcases, we aim to provide the players with the tools and information to utilize. 

We provide players with direct access to the NCSA College Recruitment Platform. This recruiting platform allows for players to build out their full college recruitment profile. From film and relevant information college coaches are seeking. This allows players to easily share their highlights with prospective college coaches and coaches to organically find our Steel City players.  Additionally, these profiles are housed in our Player College Marketplace where coaches can access our players, knowing they came from the Steel City program — giving them an increased understanding of the expectations and type of player they are considering. 

Further, we attend and host our own combine (girls) and showcase games. Coaches are provided information on each of our eligible players and are invited specifically by the club. However, the recruitment process is one that the player must be actively involved in. We help guide our players through making continued contact directly with the coaches at schools they’ve determined a good fit to build a dialogue. 

To that end, we put the emphasis on the players maintaining their information on their profile, engaging with coaches, and taking control of where they want to be. Our promise is to support and guide and assist them in every way possible.  

Ideally, the purpose of this phase model is to get our players ready to play beyond our academy – whether that be at college, in our First Teams, or in a professional setup. 

In each phase of our club phase model, we look to develop players throughout their entire playing journey. In the PP however, unlike the previous 2 phases, seeing at equal playing time is not a guarantee. 

As we train and compete to win in this phase, players with the greatest understanding, fight, and commitment that is needed to win the game will remain on the pitch. As a coaching staff, we have to know what type of players we are dealing with and know how they respond to feedback. Some players need to be told in a stern fashion but others may need the proverbial ‘arm around the shoulder.’ It’s about knowing your players and staff and maintaining the correct balance and techniques with all of the players. Continuing to develop players, we recognize when necessary to bring a player off to give specific tactical information so when they’re back in a similar role/situation, they’re able to navigate each possible decision.

Again, committing to preparing players to play at the highest level they strive for, players are trained to recognize the role of the coaching staff to adjust as needed. To the end of development, of course, players are given opportunities to demonstrate an understanding of the information shared in the game situation again. This strongly plays to our belief in the PP to get the players into a position both mentally and physically to progress as far as possible when they take up new opportunities within the game. 

To that end, our training environment has to be the best it can be so we maximize each player’s development. 

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1 Comment

  1. William Menzietti on December 28, 2021 at 9:00 am

    I’m inquiring about private lessons or program for my daughter. She has been playing since U6. Thank you. Bill