Football for Schools provides a number of sessions designed for players aged 4-7, 8-11, and 12-14 years which can be accessed through the Football for Schools App.
Football activities are provided in the App for the Warm-Up, Skill Development and Game Application for each session. A video of the activities is provided together with a diagram and description.
The warm-up follows the opening circle where the coach-educator delivers an explanation of the session and its intended learning outcomes, allowing players to mentally prepare for the session. Warm up exercises include light running, stretching, aerobic activity, and motor skill work which are easy to understand. The warm-up should last about 15 minutes and will vary depending on the nature and age of the players. Warming up is essential as it helps players avoid injury as well as improving their skills development.
The skills development is the main part of the practice and contains technical and tactical exercises as well as small- sided games, allowing players to focus on developing the skills needed to play the game. It should last about 20 minutes and its content will vary depending on the nature and age of the players.
The game application allows players to play a football game in order to practice the skills they have been developing in a game situation. The game application also allows the players to start to wind down and acts as a cool down as they play a lower-intensity game while also satisfying their need to play. The game application lasts about 15 minutes and its content will vary depending on the nature and age of the participants.
Methodology used in the football activities
Football for Schools supports the concept of long-term player development, both in terms of their football ability and personal development. Long-term player development demands that “the player is central” to all decisions made regarding practices and games. Coach-educators who believe in long-term player development will ensure that the following conditions are met:
- All games and activities are age appropriate
- Players are exposed to playing in all positions
- Each player or each group of three has access to a ball
- Activities are designed to maximize the amount of contact each player makes with the ball
- Rules and field size modified for players according to their age group and abilities.
- Equipment is modified for players according to their age group and abilities
- Activities are designed to promote decision-making
- De-emphasize winning/losing. We do not need to keep standings, statistics, etc.
Every child or young person is important, and every child has a right to develop their skills. Coach-educators need to create an environment that unlocks the game for every player enabling them to reach their full potential. No child or young person should be left behind.
Running the Football Activities
The development of a football player and the preparation of a team are comparable to building a house. To achieve the intended learning outcomes that have been set for each session, the coach-educator must follow a series of steps.
The following are key points for the coach-educator during the training session:
- Ensure the session starts with an opening circle which includes an introduction that sets out the session’s intended learning outcome.
- The coach-educator should occupy a central but sideline position during practice, which allows a clear, general vision of training and simultaneously permits the observation of small details.
- The coach-educator should demonstrate flexibility adapting the session to the time available, characteristics of the players and time required for players to learn a given task.
- The coach-educator should cover necessary coaching-points in their session plan depending on players’ performance and adaptation.
- During the session, the coach-educator should avoid stopping activity too often. Players must learn to find solutions without constantly relying on the coach-educator. Give clear and accurate coaching points and quickly restart the practice thereafter.
- A coach-educator should facilitate the session whilst not actually doing all the exercises nor play all the games.
Small Sided Games
Small-sided games are beneficial for children and young people. Studies and observations show that children get more enjoyment and learn more from playing in small-sided games with adapted rules.
The benefits of a small-sided game are that each player:
- receives the ball more often
- is always trying to score a goal
- has the freedom to play
- is always encouraged by the coach-educator
- is supported by his/her parents and coach-educators
The dimensions of the football pitch are an important consideration. The pitch must be suited to the age, skill, and number of players. A small pitch with many players is difficult to play on and requires great technical skill and vision which many children and young people between the ages of 4 and 14 years may not yet possess. Children have different characteristics depending on their physical and technical development. For these reasons, not all small-sided games are recommended for all ages. It is important to follow a logical development in which children move on from 4-a-side games (without goalkeepers) to eventually play 9-a-side football. The size of the goals should be adjusted for the relevant age groups – use small goals for younger players and larger goals for older players.