When Football Federation Australia unveiled the National Curriculum in 2009 it marked an important moment in the development of football in the Nation.

Detailing the types of players Australia should endeavour to produce, the National Curriculum was the blue print Australia had been calling out for.

Having established the type of players they wish to develop and the training required, the FFA's attention now needs to be on the development programs that carry out the objectives of the Curriculum.

Of specific concern should be increasing development opportunities so that more talented young players can receive both the quality and quantity of coaching to become technically proficient.

The importance of providing these opportunities for players between the ages of nine and 21 is perhaps shown best when analysing the statistics of Europe's elite youngsters and their ability to produce players of a high technical ability.

Young footballers in England have on average spent 3,760 hours practicing between the ages of nine and 21 whilst their European counterparts in Spain have spent 4,880 hours, in France 5,740 and in the Netherlands 5,940 hours.

Current European Champions Barcelona's young players spend well beyond this time, with estimations putting it around 8,000 hours - the results speak for themselves.

The National Curriculum recognises the positive effect of considerable time on the training pitch and how it is essential if Australia is to produce players of equal technical ability to the best in Europe and South America.

Players that make it into elite programs such as the Australian Institute of Sport or the Victorian Institute can achieve the hours necessary to be on par with their European counterparts.

However, for  those who miss out there is little chance of having access to an environment where they are able to undertake the required training to become the technically proficient players the National Curriculum aims to develop. 

A central concern is also that many of those who miss out on places in elite programs may not have less potential than those who are accepted, it could be a case of not having the places available in the programs to accommodate all the talented players.

For example, the NSWIS has a total of 40 scholarships available for  young male footballers, what happens if there 41, or 60 players that meet the Institutes criteria of having the potential to be picked in the Under 17 Australian team, AIS, Youth League sides or A-League clubs?

The unfortunate answer is that only 40 can have scholarships and people will miss out.

Whilst an argument can be made that this is the nature of football, does Australia want to be locking out scores of young footballers?

The answer to this can best be analysed when looking at what top nations such Germany are doing in their youth development models.

Following on from a disappointing Euro 2000 the German approach to youth development was dramatically overhauled.

A central goal was to improve its scouting and development networks to ensure that all talented youngsters were able to access the best possible coaching.

Caps on the number of players who entered elite programs were removed and judgements on the number of players who entered elite programs were to be made solely on the potential of players.

This was not the only change in the German development model that Australia could take inspiration from.  

Germany sought to cast a wider net when looking for young players with potential, rather than concentrating their scouting and development centres in close proximity to professional clubs, which are traditionally located in cities.

This issue was raised in the FFA's National Curriculum but the evidence does not indicate a real effort to tackle it.

The FFA's recent knock back of an entirely Queensland Football  Federation funded National Youth League side based in Townsville was an opportunity lost to scout and develop more young players in a previously unrepresented region.  

Also central to the overhaul of German youth development was the establishment of academy programs administered by the clubs and ran in accordance with the governing body.

As the FFA administers the A-League and now has a blue print for developing players the last step to mirror this aspect of the German model would be the establishment of A-League academies.

This is unlikely in the near future as many A-league clubs are struggling financially.

However, the potential benefits of doing so could far outweigh the costs and could aid clubs financial situation.

The current model where institute programs carry out the development of Australia's best young talent sees only a small number of players given access to top training environments.

If A-League clubs were to establish elite academies for players from a young age, along with the institutes, the talent pool receiving the necessary coaching to become a top player would be dramatically increased.

Instead of having one or two players each season heading to Europe it could potentially be many more, with A-League clubs reaping the financial benefits.

It would also add more competition for places in the A-League in the future, which would see the level of play improve.

The clubs would be able to play an active role in development rather than getting players at an older age when it is much more difficult to improve their technique.

The FFA has made the first step, and junior development is now in a much better position due to the creation of the National Curriculum.

Now it is time for development programs across the country to be grown with a specific focus on getting more players into elite development programs and casting a wider net for scouting players.

If this can be done the missing piece of the development structure will be added and the Nation will reap the benefits of a production line of technically proficient players.

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