Engage. Teach. Nurture.

As outlined in the Football Australia National Curriculum we break the development of our players into four phases. In most cases a junior player’s journey starts with the Discovery Phase, individuals enter the sport and grow to love the game.

The next step in their development is the Skills Acquisition Phase where players develop their individual skills. The Game Training Phase broadens player skills by introducing game situations. The final step is the Performance Phase is where it all comes together, especially for those who wish to fulfil their dreams of playing high-level senior football.

Mt Barker United SC has junior teams competing at two different levels. Our Community teams play in the grassroots Adelaide Hills Junior Football Association (AHJFA) Competition, we also provide the opportunity for our players to step up to the Football SA Junior Premier League (JPL), which is widely recognised as the top-tier junior competition in the state. Both of these competitions are mixed boys and girls, we also offer a girls only pathway, similarly structured to what’s below but with a female focus. For more information navigate to the Women’s & Girls section.

No matter what level of player you are or aspire to be, Mt Barker United SC has a #spot for you to be competitive. The Player Pathways outlined below are the ideal journey, but we all know real life isn’t always ‘ideal’, so we aim to provide options across the club for each individual to be comfortable in their environment and enjoy the sport. Regardless of what age your child enters our system they have an opportunity to commit themselves to achieve that higher step.

Common questions…

All Mt Barker United SC teams have the privilege to call the Summit Sports & Recreation Park (SSRP) home. Therefore all training and home games are held at the facility.

Community Juniors (AHJFA) – Girls & Mixed Teams
Training Wednesday* for 1 to 1.5 hours depending on age. Scheduled between 4.30pm – 7pm.  Games Saturday morning – kick off can range from 9am – 1.30pm. Away games are across the Adelaide Hills, up to Murray Bridge and out to Strathalbyn.

MiniRoos, JPL, Football SA Community Girls Leagues
Training Tuesday & Thursday for 1 to 1.5 hours depending on age. Scheduled between 5pm – 6.30pm. Games Sunday – kick off can range from 9am – 3pm. Away games for MiniRoos are within our region which is south, so the furthest travel would be Seaford. JPL & Football SA Girls could play anywhere from Seaford to Gawler. As this is the top level of junior competition in the state, you’ll play teams from across the metro area.

That is the general rule of thumb, in season game time variations can happen to accomodate opposition clubs needs, or if there’s a requirement for catch up fixtures due to wash outs, heat etc. Both AHJSA & FootballSA hold a knockout Cup competition, which may also be played at different times than outlined above.

*Depending on team numbers and coach availability we may assign an AHJFA team to train on Tuesday or Thursday, but this is done in consultation with the coach and parents.

MiniRoos is designed for kids of all abilities, aged 4 – 11 years. The nation-wide initiative from Football Australia uses short, game-based sessions to introduce the sport of football to newcomers in an inclusive way. It focuses on learning new skills, being active, making life-long friends and, potentially, unearthing the next generation of Socceroos or Matildas.

MiniRoos Kick Off Program
Kick-off is an introductory program for players from 4 years old who are interested in giving football a go without the pressures of playing for a team or committing for a whole season. Offered as a mixed or girls only program.

MiniRoos Football (5 – 10 years old)
MiniRoos Football is for players who want to play for at least the whole football season, in a team with games against other clubs. Offered as a mixed or girls only team, the Football SA MiniRoos can start from under 6, but only if we have enough interested players. At Mt Barker United we usually introduce this level at under 9, see the Discovery Phase section for more detail.

Football South Australia (FSA) is the governing body of football in South Australia. The FSA are affiliated with Football Australia, the sport’s national governing body. The FSA run all the highest levels of junior and senior football in the state for both male and female players. 

The Senior competitions are as follows; National Premier Leagues South Australia (NPLSA) and the tier two and three Men’s leagues – State League 1 and State League 2. For senior women the top level Women’s competition is the WNPL, then tier two is the Women’s State League, down to the six divisions of the Women’s Community leagues.

The highest level of junior competition is the Junior Premier League (JPL) where teams from under 12s to under 17s play Sundays. The second tier is the Junior State League. For girls only teams they have the Community Girls Leagues played Sunday’s across metropolitan Adelaide.

The FSA also acts as the umbrella organisation for affiliated associations including the South Australian Junior Soccer Association (SAJSA), Masters’ League and Collegiate Soccer League for men.

As one of the clubs playing in the top three tiers of men’s competition in the state, Mt Barker United SC has the opportunity to compete in the Junior Premier League. If you don’t compete in the top three senior men’s competitions clubs can enter junior teams in the second tier Junior State League (JSL).

As mentioned the JPL is the top level of underage football in the state. Although predominantly a competition for boys, girls can participate and many do so as they enjoy the competition. Ages range from u12 to u17. The JPL is the natural progression from a Football SA MiniRoos program at Mt Barker United and a precursor to playing high level senior football.

As a JPL club we are able to nominate players to trial for the Football SA State Identification Program (SIP). Selection in these squads can lead to selection in the National Training Centre (NTC) programs and onto state and national selection.

The Adelaide Hills Junior Football Association (AHJFA) is a collection of football clubs spread across the Adelaide Hills to Murray Bridge and Strathalbyn. It’s a vibrant grass roots community competition play mostly Saturday mornings. Catering for mixed teams from under 8 though to under 11 in the non-competitive mixed competitions and from under 12 to under 16 in the mixed competitive. There are also girls only comps with the age groups offered dependant on team nominations.

The AHJFA is part of the South Australian Junior Soccer Association (SAJSA). AHJFA Representative Teams (REPS) are selected from a series of trials at the end of each season. The REPS Teams train an extra night a week aside from club training, usually on a Monday for two SAJSA Carnivals each year, one usually at West Beach, the other in a Regional Centre, like Strathalbyn, Port Pirie, Whyalla or Mildura.

From the carnivals players can be selected to represent the Regional squad in the Football SA State Identification Program (SIP) Tourament against 6 JPL SIP squads, North, South, East, West, NorthEast and SouthWest. 


JULY 3, 2021


4 to 9 years: Let them play!

Discovery Phase

Coaches are encouraged to organise fun football-related activities so the players ‘discover’ how the game works in a natural way, with a sprinkle of organic skill acquisition blended in as appropriate.

Starting with the MiniRoos Kick-Off Program from 4 years old, children participate in internal sessions before graduating to organised games against other clubs in the AHJFA leagues from under 8s. For those keen to accelerate their development we offer Football SA MiniRoos from under 9 which is the beginning of the journey to competing in the JPL.

The club does have the option to join the Football SA MiniRoos competition from under 6, so the children can play small-sided games against other Football SA aligned clubs in our zone. We acknowledge this is an extra commitment, especially for the 4-6 year olds, so the decision is taken in consultation with the coach and parents before the season starts and we’re happy to support the general consensus.

All games are non-competitive so no results are recorded.


9 – 12 years: Time to get technical

Skill Acquisition Phase

The emphasis in the Skill Acquisition Phase – as the name suggests – is on skill development, training becomes more structured with drills designed to specifically target technical football skills. 

At this age your child can look to step up and join our MiniRoos program giving them two nights a week training and games against other Football SA clubs in our zone. We aim to have a team playing MiniRoos at under 9, 10, & 11 levels, as this is the ideal pathway to play in the JPL. Of course, children can continue on playing at the grassroots level with the AHJFA aligned teams, training once a week and step up at any stage, when the player and family are ready. This is why all Mt Barker United SC coaches are encouraged to coach to the same curriculum so early choices won’t adversely effect a player’s football development.

As the player matures and gets closer to the competitive leagues, more game sense and decision making is introduced to the training drills to provide a seamless transition into the Game Training Phase.

Games are still non-competitive, with no results recorded up to under 11s. Competition starts at under 12s.


13 – 16 years: Game on

Game Training Phase

As the children enter their teens much changes, so does the emphasis with developing footballers. This is where the preparation for senior football begins by starting to move them from obtaining the essential technical skills to functional game skills in a competitive team setting. 

Developing tactical awareness, perception and decision-making through a game-related approach to their training. Of course, refining technical ability will always be a work-on and integrated as required.

Similar to when children enter high school and their education starts to get more focused, so does playing football at Mt Barker United. Our JPL squads are for those players who are keen to be the best footballers they can. Playing in the Football SA JPL, like any high-level competition is very competitive and to be successful you need to be committed.

Of course it’s not for everyone which is why we maintain teams at the community level in the AHJFA. Players develop at different rates and the option to step up to the JPL is always available.

Games are now competitive in both the AHJFA and JPL, with results recorded and in the JPL promotion and relegation like most competitions around the world is in play. Although development is still the major focus at this age, developing a winning culture is important too.


16+ years: It’s now getting serious, (or not)

Performance Phase

By this age a player would have a clear idea if they are keen on progressing to senior football and in order to equip them for this training starts to focus on solving football problems based on match analysis. Teams are also prepared for a competition environment where winning becomes the main aim. Football conditioning also becomes a key part of the program. 

Those wishing to play high-level senior football will trial to be part of our u18 NPLSA State League squad which is seen as the natural progression from our u16 JPL squad. As the player is now entering senior football, player movement becomes a factor with players seeking greater opportunity from other clubs. This means competition for spots increases and selection in this squad isn’t guaranteed.

At Mt Barker United SC though, there are a number of options to continue and further develop to fulfil the ambition to high-level play senior football. We have the option to have an u17 squad who continue to play in the Football SA JPL competition.

There is also the option to play for one of our Community Mens teams who compete in the Collegiate Soccer League. This is ideal for players 16-17 years to test themselves against men, or for those players who struggle with the commitment required at NPLSA State League level.

Confidence to thrive

Whatever path you take Mt Barker United SC exists to give all our players the best opportunity to thrive and enjoy playing football. Whilst there is naturally a strong emphasis on developing top-level players, we acknowledge that takes commitment, desire, mental and physical application and may not be for everyone. That’s why we will always have strong community programs at the club.

We will endeavour to provide access to highly-credentialed coaches regardless of the level of competition, so our players develop a strong skill base coupled with instinctive game sense, ensuring each child becomes a confident, pro-active footballer.