New Zealand Football is looking to continue the success of its players and teams on the world stage through the launch of the National Curriculum.
Based on extensive research and world trends, the National Curriculum serves as a guide for player, coach and team development. Alongside the award-winning Whole of Football and Beyond Football plans, it provides a unified vision for the future direction of the world game in New Zealand.
“The National Curriculum will be a reference point for how we play football and develop our young players,” New Zealand Football Technical Director Rob Sherman says. “It’s an important addition to our footballing fabric and will hopefully act as a blueprint for those who coach and play the game.”
The aim of the curriculum is to provide a tool that can assist both the novice and experienced coach in improving themselves, their players and ultimately their teams’ performance. It follows the release of the Beyond Football high performance plan in 2014 which articulated New Zealand Football’s goal of ‘Winning at World Cups’.
The curriculum outlines the key factors to assist New Zealand on its journey to successfully compete on the world stage. It focuses on the implementation of an aligned playing style, the development of coaches and producing players that can compete at the highest level. Sherman feels such an approach is especially advantageous for a country of New Zealand’s size and standing in world football.
“For a small nation, it’s necessary to have an alignment in terms of a common playing style, including an understanding of the key player capabilities and strengths required to play that style. In our context, because of the limitations of the player pool, we have to be very tactically astute,” he says.
“We need to be in a position where we’re developing young people who can transition into the international fold and into the modern game professionally because, ultimately, our success is going to depend on how many top players we can produce and sustain.”
New Zealand Football Technical Director Rob Sherman on the National Curriculum
Huge progress has already been made with both the All Whites and Football Ferns now able to bring together squads of players based in fully-professional leagues around the world. Such a luxury is in stark contrast to the first New Zealand squad to compete at a FIFA World Cup when the All Whites performed heroics in qualifying for Spain 1982 with a largely amateur, domestic-based group.
Anthony Hudson’s current crop is in the middle of a promising run, having won the OFC Nations Cup and following that triumph with a pair of high-quality performances against Mexico and the USA. They are on track to qualify for an intercontinental play-off for a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and will take on Russia, Portugal and Mexico in next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.
The rise in the quality of the player pool has had a significant impact on the women’s and youth games. The Football Ferns have established themselves in the world’s top 20 and became the first New Zealand team to defeat Brazil on their own turf last November – an astonishing feat given the gulf in football standing between the countries. Other memorable achievements include a quarter-final showing at the London Olympic Games in 2012 and a highest-ever points total at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.
Kiwi youth teams have also become highly competitive. Last year, New Zealand was one of only five countries to qualify for the knockout stages of both the U-17 and U-20 men’s World Cups – the others including powerhouses Germany and Brazil, as well as football-mad Nigeria and Mali. New Zealand also made the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2014.
Individually, New Zealanders are making their mark overseas like never before with Winston Reid regarded as one of the best defenders in the English Premier League, Chris Wood leading the line for Leeds United in the Championship, Ryan Thomas a key figure for PEC Zwolle in the Dutch Eredivisie, Bill Tuiloma on the books of French Ligue 1 outfit Olympique de Marseille and Abby Erceg recently captaining Western New York Flash to the title in the USA’s top female league.
The National Curriculum will build on that success. Attendees at the recent NZF Regional Coaching Conference in Auckland became the first to view the document and were impressed.
“Combined with the Whole of Football and Beyond Football plans, there’s some really exciting stuff there and the National Curriculum really ties it all together,” says Simon Mead, one of many community-based coaches who will draw on the curriculum to assist in their mentoring of players.
“It gives a tangible, practical element to what coaches can actually take out onto the grass. It’s articulated really simply and there are some really good visual elements. All of us want New Zealand to be successful on the international stage and to have a framework that we can all work towards is really going to help.”
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings feels the National Curriculum will prove just as valuable at an elite level.
“One of the challenges we face is bringing new players into a very established Football Ferns squad to compete for places,” he says. “If the production of players is aligned to a consistent playing style then the transition will be relatively smooth when they eventually come into the senior environment and that will result in a far greater depth of players to choose from.”
To view the NZF National Football Curriculum please click here