Program Details





For the Fall 2015 season, Decatur Soccer will offer a dedicated Player Development Program (PDP) based on Horst Wein’s Youth Football Development Model and, more specifically, the FUNiño Curriculum.  This is a separate program from our standard offering and will have separate training/game fields at both Jack Allen and Point Mallard.  Coaches who participate in the PDP will receive specialized training, equipment and materials.  Over the past two seasons, we’ve been learning how to make this program a great option for the players that want to truly develop into better, smarter players as they continue to grow in the game of soccer.

How do you get started with PDP and FUNino?

If you already know you want your child to be considered as a PDP participant for the Fall 2015 season, here’s what to do:

A. Please indicate your choice by checking the box on the registration form (click image below) when registering. This is the easiest way to let us know.









B. You can also email our Director of Coaching, Walt Stewart, at to let him know you want you your child to be considered for the Player Development Program.


Keep reading to learn more about FUNino and our Player Development Program.

Decatur Soccer & FUNiño

The FUNiño Curriculum has been tested for more than two decades in professional and amateur youth academies and grassroots soccer organizations around the world.   Despite the adoption and success of FUNiño around the world, it is relatively unknown in the United States.  FUNiño is used at only a handful of forward-thinking competitive youth clubs around the United States as a training methodology.  Decatur Soccer, as far as we know, is the first “recreational-only” youth soccer organization in the United States offering a complete FUNiño player development program.


Our Player Development Program consists of two, progressive stages: Stage 1 is for Under 9 players. Stage 2 is for Under 11 players. This program increases in complexity as players move from Stage 1 to Stage 2.

U9 (Stage 1) is for 7-8 year olds and the exceptional 6yr old that truly loves soccer.

Here are some details of the U9 program:

  • No more than 36 players and at least 3 head coaches and 3-6 assistant coaches will participate.
  • The internationally-proven FUNiño (3v3 on four goals) curriculum is used throughout the season.
  • For games, the U9 PDP players will play FUNiño games against other U9 PDP teams during the 1st half of the season.  The 2nd half of the season will consist of games against our U10 recreational teams playing normal soccer games.
  • For those players, coaches and parents that are interested, we will enter at least one U9 PDP team into a Division 4 (Rec) tournament during the Fall 2015 season. More details will follow as the season nears. Additional fees may be required to participate in tournament play.
  • During the season, each team will have regular, scheduled access to a professional British Soccer coach from Challenger Sports.  The Challenger coach will lead technical training sessions when there are practices and reinforce the unique concepts and values of the FUNiño learning environment.  On game nights, the Challenger coach will provide professional in-game guidance and post-game feedback to PDP coaches.  This professional coach will be a shared resource for PDP teams during the week.  The additional $25 required for PDP participation covers the cost of this coach.  We are very excited about offering this professional resource to our PDP players and coaches.

U11 (Stage 2) is for 9-10 year olds.

Here are some details of the U9 program:

  • No more than 26 players with at least 2 head coaches and 3-6 assistant coaches will participate.
  • The internationally-proven FORMiño (5v5 on 4 goals) curriculum is used throughout the season.  A key part of the FORMiño method is the transition to the standard 8v8 small-sided game format.
  • For games, the U11 PDP players will play FORMiño games against other U11 PDP teams during the 1st half of the season.  The 2nd half of the season will consist of games against our U12 recreational teams playing normal soccer games.  We will also schedule a couple of “friendly” games against local club U11 and U12 club teams.
  • For those players, coaches and parents that are interested, we will enter at least one U11 PDP team into a Division 4 (Rec) tournament during the Fall 2015 season. More details will follow as the season nears. Additional fees may be required to participate in tournament play. We see an introduction to competitive play as an essential educational aspect for this age group.

Decatur Cup / “Quest for the Cup” Events for U9 and U11 PDP Teams

Just like the normal rec soccer teams, the U9 and U11 PDP teams participate in the Decatur Cup at the end of the season.  However, since there are fewer PDP teams, the format is different.  PDP teams earn points over three events (against the other PDP teams) that count toward winning the Decatur Cup trophy for their PDP age group.  We call this series of events “The Quest for the Cup” and each player has a big role to play in helping their team win the trophy.  The Cup events for PDP teams are:

  • a FUNiño tournament
  • a Skills Challenge
  • and finally, a normal soccer game.

The concepts taught are appropriate for the age group and nothing provides more “game-like” repetitions than what’s found in the FUNiño game and teaching methods.

Development Approach

This unique and modern program is built on the following:

  • A player-centered approach to coaching, where the player’s development and enjoyment are the priority.  In addition to a completely different coaching methodology, competitions will be different as well.  Instead of  a single game or two every week, we will have three tournament days during the season on Saturday mornings where each player plays at least three games.
  • A game-based approach to teaching and learning the game of soccer in an optimal environment. In this setting, there are no lines, laps and lectures.  All aspects of development (technical, physical, tactical and game intelligence) are developed at the same time for improved learning transfer and performance.
  • A Guided-Discovery approach to learning, where the coach intentionally guides the player’s learning through effective questioning and relies less on the typical practice of giving answers when problem isn’t clearly understood by the players, also known as telling the players what they should be doing.

Is this program right for your player?

We are looking for players and parents who would answer the following questions with a strong YES!

  • Does your child already love the game of soccer?
  • Do you want to see your child become a smarter soccer player?
  • Do you want to see your child develop great decision making skills that will help them not only in soccer, but also in life?
  • Can you commit to having your child attend as many training sessions as possible, but no more than three events per week?
  • Do you want your player to receive professional technical coaching from a Challenger Sports coach from the UK?
  • Do you think there should be a way for your child to develop and grow in the game without the financial and time requirements of competitive travel soccer?
  • Are you OK with your child competing in two game formats (FUNiño and soccer) instead of just soccer?
  • Are you open to learning new ways to be supportive of your player even as they are learning to play and think about the game in a completely different way?

This program is not for you if…

  • …you think soccer is just a great way to get your player some exercise.
  • …the most important thing to you is being able to tell your friends and family that your child plays on a “winning” team.
  • …you want to travel around the state playing in competitive club matches.
  • …you, as a parent, want to shout instructions from the sideline during games.
  • …you as a parent, can’t commit to bring your child to as many training sessions and competitions as possible.


Is the Player Development Program selective or open to any player of any playing ability?

Over the previous two seasons, we’ve had a wide range of skill levels in PDP; from beginning players to advanced. We learned a lot from these two seasons and have decided that in order for PDP to be most effective, PDP participants need to have above average playing ability.  While being selective is a goal, it is not an absolute rule.  If your child has a passion for the game and they want to learn how to be an intelligent player, we would be fortunate to have them participate in PDP.  This season, we want to identify all interested PDP players prior to player evaluations. When they attend evaluations, they will be evaluated for inclusion in PDP at that time.

What makes FUNiño so effective for teaching children the game of soccer?

Soccer is a game for adults. FUNiño is game designed for kids. FUNiño was designed by Horst Wein to introduce children to appropriately complex concepts and to add complexity only when the player or team is ready for more. The secret to FUNiño is the supportive learning environment.  Quick decisions are required, risk-taking is encouraged and creativity is fostered without fear of ridicule or embarrassment, or even failure.  We want kids to dribble and only pass the ball at the very last second! We want them to love the ball. We want their team to love possession of the ball. We want simple passes on the ground – not in the air. We want their eyes up looking around for options and not looking at the ground. We want players to move when they don’t have the ball. Given time, the game of FUNiño teaches all this without the coach saying a single word in correction.  When you add lots of scoring, lots of running and lots of success, you have what the kids like to call FUN.  When you add the FUNiño curriculum and coaches who are trained to use it effectively, you have a structured environment where players actually PLAY (and have FUN) and they have no idea how much they are learning.  Then, it’s too late! They are soccer players!

How can something that isn’t “real soccer” actually teach the game of soccer?  

Think of soccer as poetry.  When kids start school, do we ask them to start writing poetry? Of course not. That is absurd.  Instead, kids are correctly introduced to letters, letter sounds, letter combinations, single-syllable words, simple sentences, etc.  These are just a few of the basic concepts needed to master the language well enough to even talk about simple poetry. FUNiño represents these basic concepts in soccer.  Soccer is a player’s game not a coach’s game.  In the game, coaches don’t make decisions; the players do.  Learning to make the right decisions takes years of learning. So does becoming a poet.