The importance of water breaks in youth football

Staying hydrated when playing football is vital for both health and performance reasons, which makes regular water breaks an important part of training and match situations – especially when it comes to youth football.

Players who do not take on enough water run the risk of heat illness and an increased likelihood of muscle injuries. Dehydration impacts energy levels and concentration, making it more difficult for a child to make the most out of their training session or master a new skill.

Every We Make Footballers Academy provides regular water breaks and reinforces their importance both on the pitch and off it. 

Here are some of the reasons why water breaks and rehydration are a core principle of the youth football coaching philosophy of England’s biggest academy for 4 to 12 year olds.

Water breaks in professional football

Most football observers know that rehydration whilst playing is important. Not many though appreciate the regularity with which football players need to rehydrate or the many reasons behind it.

The Premier League provided an insight into the importance of water when it returned from its three-month hiatus in June 2020 following the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Two mandatory water breaks were introduced to matches midway through either half. Referees were to halt play for five minutes so players could take on fluid.

To some, this was controversial. Fans and even a few pundits cried that it was simply an excuse for managers to impart instructions to their players, offering the prospect of a mini team talk or tactical adjustment which should not be allowed in “a game of two halves”.

These critics said that football was turning into basketball or American Football, with time outs and too many breaks in play. 

The science though was very clear as to why water breaks were needed. English footballers are not used to playing high-level, competitive football through the heat of June and July. 

They would therefore become dehydrated more quickly and needed more opportunities to drink water than normal to avoid heat-related illness.

This is not uncommon in hotter climates; water breaks were used in the 2014 World Cup in the heart of Brazil, for example. 

Interestingly, this was not at the suggestion of FIFA. Rather, a Brazilian court ordered the governing body to mandate breaks when temperatures exceeded 32⁰C. 

The decision proved popular with players, and water breaks have subsequently appeared at other international tournaments, including games played in Seville during Euro 2020. They will also feature prominently at the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Secondly, Premier League players were coming off a long period without playing. Their muscles would have weakened in the three months without competitive football and, unlike in the gap between one season finishing and another beginning, they did not have a pre-season training schedule or play friendly matches to get back up to speed.

That meant an increased risk of muscular injuries. And muscle problems are more likely to occur when a player is dehydrated. 

The additional water breaks helped players stay hydrated, which in turn lessened the chances of muscle fatigue resulting in soft tissue damage.

How much water should a child drink during football?

Children need to stay hydrated whilst playing football for the same reasons as professionals. Regular water breaks prevent health issues in the heat and lessen the prospects of picking up injuries.

Research suggests that water breaks every 20-25 minutes in which between 200ml and 350ml are taken onboard is required for optimum performance, depending on the age of the child.

Ensuring that children take on board water during a break can be difficult. Often, a child will not feel thirsty at the point the water break arrives and so they do not think they need to drink. 

By the time they do feel thirsty shortly afterwards, the opportunity to replenish water levels has gone and they are already on their way to dehydration.

It is for this reason that We Make Footballers include regular water stops and reinforce the importance of rehydration, even when a child may not feel thirsty. 

Educating young players as to how the mind and bodywork and their reliance on hydration help them understand why they need to drink a suitable amount of water.

When a young player sees the difference that rehydration makes to their performance through regular water breaks in training, it has a positive knock-on effect on processes in a match situation.

Taking fluid on board in games is much harder. Breaks are few and far between and players will often be so focussed or swept up in the action going on that they do not take advantage of the opportunities to rehydrate when they arrive.

Children who have been taught and seen the benefits of taking water on board in practice sessions are more likely to seek the chance to do so in-game situations, having experienced improved performance from doing so in training. 

In this way, regular water breaks in training can directly lead to children developing good rehydration habits in matches as second nature.

Drinking water before and after football training

Drinking water during football is only part of the process. It is also important to make sure that children are well hydrated before football training to make up for what they will lose once they start sweating.

It is recommended that 200ml of water should be consumed two hours before physical activity, followed by up to 350ml drunk 30 minutes before the start. Again, this is dependent on age.

Children will often turn up to football training already on their way to dehydration. A full day at school, running around at break times and not eating or drinking enough throughout the day all contribute to a dehydrated state before evening football begins.

These factors can all be overcome by ensuring that a child drinks in preparation for football. Topping up water levels gives a child more water in their body to work through. This then reduces the chances of injury and ensures they can play to their optimum level.

After playing football, the body will usually be dehydrated no matter how frequently water has been consumed. It is impossible to prescribe how much water needs to be drunk to replenish what has been lost through exercise as every football player sweats and uses a fluid in different ways.

As a general rule, children should be encouraged to drink until they no longer feel thirsty. That is the best sign that the body is rehydrated and recovered from physical activity.

Urine colour can also indicate a player’s dehydration levels. A dark, gold colour like apple juice means the player is dehydrated. A paler yellow like lemonade means that they are on their way to being rehydrated, but a little more water may be needed.

How We Make Footballers use football to instil healthy habits

Drinking water is not only important when playing football, but also for leading a healthy lifestyle. NHS guidance suggests that children under five should be consuming between 720ml and 1200ml per day. 

For children aged six and above, recommended daily intake increases to between 1500ml and 2400ml. Neither of those figures takes into account the water needed during physical activity either, like football.

That is a lot of water. The best way to try and ensure that children get close to those levels of intake is by not only educating them about the importance of water but getting them into good habits whereby they drink their recommended daily amount without even noticing what they are doing.

We Make Footballers believe in setting good habits in children which stick for life, including health and nutrition. 

By making regular water breaks part of their football education and training programme, we teach children and reinforce the importance of being hydrated on the football pitch and off it.

The aim is that they take these lessons and good practices into everyday life, keeping themselves in the best possible condition to learn and play.

To discover your nearest We Make Footballers Academy and help your child become healthier and happier, please see the We Make Footballers website.

 

How does football coaching improve performance?

When a child attends a weekly football training session, their coach is always striving for one thing – improving the performance of their players to ensure that they make the most of their talent. At We Make Footballers, we have a clear set of philosophies designed to ensure our franchise owners and coaches make a real difference to the physical and mental footballing abilities of the young players we coach across England. Here, we give you a look into how we use football coaching, analysis, feedback and good communication to improve performance – with the ultimate aim of increasing standards amongst the next generation of footballers and helping England win a World Cup.

What is the purpose of football coaching?

The purpose of football coaching is to improve the performance of their players, whether they are Pep Guardiola working at Manchester City in the Premier League or the manager of the Dog & Duck in Sunday League Division 7.

When it comes to working with children, then this role is even more important. Younger players are impressionable, learning the game and developing the skills they need to be successful. The right coaching style can unlock their potential. 

Every We Make Footballers franchise owner and coach is given training and undertakes qualifications to help maximise the potential of every child they work with. To give you some idea of how we do this, we are going to look at how our approach to football coaching helps improve performance.

How can coaching improve performance?

A lot of people may think the answer to the question of how can coaching enhance performance to be simple. You merely teach a player a skill, be it a Maradona turn or how to accurately play a 30-yard pass – and that is all there is to it.

And whilst helping players hone such abilities is important, there is much more to it than that. We Make Footballers take a multi-faceted approach, designed to improve players across all areas of the game so that they have the best opportunity to achieve their goals.

Professional demonstration

At We Make Footballers, our coaches have the philosophy ‘Practice makes permanent’ printed on their training kits. What we really mean though is good practice makes permanent.

If a player is taught a skill incorrectly and then practise it relentlessly in this way, they will master said skill ineffectively. Breaking bad habits is tough, which is why professional demonstration of how to perform a task in an optimum way is so important.

To ensure that all demonstrations and training exercises provided by We Make Footballers are of a professional standard, all our coaching teams are FA Qualified. They, therefore, know how to deliver demonstrations in the optimum way to improve the skill level and develop the playing style of the players they work with.

Individualised feedback

As important as professional demonstrations is individualised feedback. Coaches who can effectively communicate what a player is doing correctly at the same time as offering constructive criticism for what is not going well will help improve performance.

We Make Footballers classes are small in size for precisely this reason. We work to a 1:10 ratio, where there are no more than 10 children per coach. 

This allows coaches to monitor every child closely, offering incredibly detailed feedback and devising training plans to help a player improve their game on an individual level.

Children progress at different rates. An individualised approach to coaching allows children to continuously improve no matter what their current ability level.

If they are more advanced, they will not be held back by players struggling. And if they are struggling, they will not be ignored or left behind by the focus being on the better players in the group.

Identifying strengths

One popular view of good coaching is that it involves identifying weaknesses in the game of a player and improves those areas to increase overall ability.

Whilst this is true, the very best coaches will focus on strengths as much as weaknesses. Better performances can come from continually improving areas where a player already excels with the aim of making them even greater. 

There is a reason why David Beckham would relentlessly practise taking free kicks, despite being the best in the world at set pieces. Lionel Messi constantly works on his dribbling, even though there is nobody as good as the Argentinian maestro at running with the ball.

This relentless thirst is what sets the best players in the world apart from the rest. The best sports coaches share that view. They look for improvements everywhere and refuse to let their players rest on their laurels, even when it may appear as if they have mastered a skill.

It is for this reason that We Make Footballers offer one-on-one coaching, to truly make the most of the potential of a player by improving every aspect of their game through ongoing performance analysis.

Empowerment

Football coaching empowers a child to take charge of their own development and drive their own improvement in addition to what the coach teaches them in weekly sessions.

This is done through the monitoring of performance and feedback given to the player. A child can see the progression they are making as a player and realises that the training they are receiving is helping them hone their skills. This motivates them to make further progress.

Having taught a player these skills and the drills and practices needed to improve them, the coach enables the child to go away and continue learning and training in their spare time.

Not only is this good for improving performance, but empowering a child to take responsibility for their training also breeds independence. 

This is important as when a player is on the pitch in a game situation, they must make decisions for themselves. Helping them develop the confidence to do so will lead to better independent thinking and a better player.

Decision making

On the subject of decision making, let us take more of a look at how effective coaching can help improve the choices a player makes on the pitch.

Football is not like chess, where you can learn a playbook by heart and have a set of moves to create or get out of a certain situation. Games are unpredictable and players can find themselves in one of a million different scenarios.

How they react to the situation they are in often determines how successful they are. The better decisions they make, the better player they become. So, decision making is very much an area in which coaching can help improve performance.

Teaching a child new skills focuses on repeating the action over and over until it has become mastered and is second nature – hence our practice makes permanent ethos.

Yet that only gets you so far. In addition to training a player to Cruyff turn or shoot with their weaker foot, they also need to be put into situations where they can see whether they should be Cruyff turning or instead of playing the way they are facing. 

When it comes to shooting with the weaker foot, perhaps the better decision would be to take a touch and set themselves onto their stronger side if there is the necessary time and space to do so?

Throwing players into drills or game situations whereby they are made to consider the best action improves decision making. 

This is also where learning through failure comes in. If the decision they make ends up being the wrong one, then the player will know for next time to chart a different course with an improved outcome.

Better emotion management

As well as the physical side of the game, the best coaches understand the improvements that can be driven from the mental side. Alongside decision making, better management of emotions is another way to improve player and team performance.

If a child is interested in winning and nothing else, then the setback of things not going well can be disastrous. A coach who can show that there is value in losing from the lessons it teaches will create better players with more robust emotions.

Instead of throwing in the towel at defeat, players develop renewed commitment to not make the same mistakes again. 

They become more accepting of constructive criticism and understand that the reason a coach is communicating where they need to improve alongside offering praise is that it will make them a better player.

Commitment

In the long run, children who end up being the best players are always those who are the most committed. They want to work hard whenever they turn up to weekly team training sessions, listen to what the coach has to say and practise football away in their own free time.

If a coach can spark a commitment to the sport in their players, then they are helping them to improve their skill level above what can be taught in the time that training takes place. 

The best way to foster that commitment is by helping a child see the progress they are making so that they understand the benefits that come from regular practice and sticking with something – even if they may not succeed at first.

What do you gain from coaching?

We have looked at how good coaches improve their players. But what does the coach gain from it all? 

Clearly, the satisfaction from seeing a child grow and flourish thanks to your efforts is one of the biggest reasons why a career in coaching kids’ football appeals to so many.

There are other benefits to be had from setting up your own football coaching franchise, however. Here are some of the ways in which a coach’s own skills and career can be improved by taking the plunge and getting into football.

Making a difference

Football changes lives. Not only do you help to unlock a child’s potential and foster a love of the sport that can stay with them forever, but football coaches help kids reach their goals.

For some, that will be getting into a local grassroots team. For others, it will be the offer of a place at a professional club’s academy and the beginning of their journey to potential stardom.

As England’s leading football coaching academy for children aged 4 to 12, We Make Footballers have established links that help their players take those steps beyond their weekly training sessions. 

Being able to help set a child on the road to becoming a professional footballer is about as life-changing as it gets.

Leadership skills

It is not just the children you coach who learn and develop new skills – We Make Footballers coaches also go on a journey of discovery, enhancing their own abilities across a range of areas.

Coaching is obviously one area of improvement. Alongside FA badges, coaches undertake separate We Make Footballers qualifications designed to further enhance their skills.

Your leadership skills too will develop as you grow into the role and become more experienced. Coaches become more effective communicators both in one-on-one situations and in group settings.

Ready to become a coach?

Following the approach that We Make Footballers have developed over the past 10 years, our franchise owners improve player performance through football coaching each and every day.

And we want to help more children achieve their footballing goals, changing lives in the process. Franchising opportunities exist for those wanting to run their own football coaching business and reap all the benefits that come with it.

To find out more about how We Make Footballers and football coaching careers, please see the We Make Footballers Franchise website and book a call with one of our team. 

 

Advice on starting a children’s football coaching franchise from our franchise owners

Youth football continues to grow in popularity in England. As more children start playing the sport, so more football coaches are needed to deliver fun training sessions in safe environments. There has never been a better time to get into the football coaching business and become a franchise owners. 

We Make Footballers are at the vanguard of football coaching. As the biggest provider of football training for children aged between 4 and 12, we have over 4,700 children attending our weekly sessions across the country. By the end of 2022, we aim to have 50 franchises operating nationwide and one internationally. This will build on the 140 per cent growth we experienced last year.

To continue the expansion of the We Make Footballers brand, we require new franchise owners to join us. We need people who are passionate about football and want to share that passion with the next generation and who are motivated to succeed. 

You might be looking to give something back to the local community, become your boss or see franchising as a way into working in football full time.

Whatever your reasons for considering launching your football coaching franchise, We Make Footballers can help you achieve your dreams. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Here are four of our current franchise owners offering their top tips, advice and explaining why investing in a football franchise is a pursuit worth undertaking.

What does owning a franchise mean?

When you own a franchise, you pay a fee for the right to operate a business under the name of an already-established company. You benefit from their brand, existing structure and their management, who will offer you advice and guidance on making a success of your business.

What does a franchise owner do day-to-day?

That entirely depends on the franchise owner and the size of their business. For some, running a franchise will be their full-time job and provide most of their income. Others will mix running their franchise with another occupation, dedicating a certain number of hours per week to working and growing their business.

Amongst our We Make Footballer franchise owners, we have those who have expanded to take on several territories for whom football coaching is now their full-time job. Some franchise owners hold other positions in football, mixing their franchise with coaching or scouting for professional clubs’ academies.   

And then some work in industries removed from football. We have firemen, city workers and teachers who combine their day jobs with running We Make Footballers franchises one night a week or at weekends. Doing so is challenging but the rewards which come from coaching and improving the next generation of footballers make it all worth it.

Top tips on owning a franchise from some of our youth football coaches

By becoming the owner of a We Make Footballers franchise, you are attaching your football coaching business to the most successful and recognisable brand in the market.

You receive support from a dedicated Franchise Support Manager. Our systems and software give every business owner the processes in place that they need to launch and operate a successful franchise.

We help new coaches become fully qualified via their FA Coaching Badges. Our in-house We Make Footballers qualifications enable experienced coaches to broaden their knowledge base to become the best that they can be.

Like we said earlier though, don’t take our word for it. Instead, meet some of our existing franchise owners, who you could join as part of the We Make Footballers family as we expand into new locations. Here are their best pieces of advice about the business of football coaching.

Marcelo – We Make Footballers Chiswick

Marcelo has been with We Make Footballers for five years, initially as an academy manager before taking on his franchise. He now runs two academies, welcoming over 250 children with training taking place four nights a week. 

One of the biggest barriers to a person taking on a franchise is a fear of the admin side should they not be business-minded. Marcelo had to overcome that concern himself, and he subsequently encourages football-focussed individuals with worries about becoming a business owner and everything that entails not to let it put them off franchising.

“I have a really good knowledge of football but what I appreciate is the business support I get from We Make Footballers head office. Setting up the franchise was daunting at first. The help of We Make Footballers made it simple and stress-free. I would strongly recommend any football coaches looking to start their own business speak to We Make Footballers.”

Dave – We Make Footballers Essex

Prior to launching his, We Make Footballers Essex franchise in 2018, Dave worked full time in the television and advertising industry whilst coaching football in his spare time. When deciding to swap his media career to move into football, he looked at different ways to enter the sport.

What made Dave settle on We Make Footballers was our approach to football. He believes that for the best chance of success in football franchising, you must work with a company that shares similar beliefs to yourself about how the game should be played.

“There were a lot of companies out there but We Make Footballers were the ones whose philosophy and ethos most closely matched mine in regards to player development, what a future player should look like and what they should experience when they come to a football coaching session.”

Simon – We Make Footballers Carshalton & Coulsdon

 

We Make Footballers Carshalton and Coulsdon franchise owner Simon is a busy man. He works 48 hours a week in the fire service and runs eight football coaching classes and scouts for Crystal Palace.

His advice for those considering a football franchise business but who worry they do not have the time? With good organisation, time management and the help of a strong support team from the franchiser, anything is possible.

“My sessions run Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. Monday and Tuesday I like to get my admin out of the way. If I get the bog work done early in the week, the rest of the week I can then do whatever comes in.”

“I fit in my franchise around my job in the fire brigade. Having the support of the We Make Footballers sales team helps me do that by following up on leads and trialists. Their help frees up a lot of my time, which is very valuable.”

Russell – We Make Footballers Milton Keynes

IT specialist Russell commutes to London four days a week to work in the city. On a Wednesday, he ditches his suit for a We Make Footballers tracksuit, carrying out the admin side of his football business during the day before coaching children in Milton Keynes in the evening.

His advice to those considering a football franchise opportunity is twofold – prepare to benefit from learning new skills. And then prepare to find what you do very rewarding.

“Even though I worked in IT for 30-odd years, I have always shied away from social media. It is nothing I have been involved with or got interested in. Since starting We Make Footballers Milton Keynes, I have had to start learning how to use Facebook and Instagram and now I can engage people on that platform thanks to the support of the head office.”

As for the feeling that being a We Make Footballers franchise owner can bring? “When you see somebody do a stepover, a Cruyff turn or some kind of skill we have been practising in some of the earlier drills, that makes me feel good. You feel as though you have made a difference.”

Is being a franchise owner worth it?

What is common amongst the four We Make Footballers franchise owners we spoke to for their advice is that all had questions and doubts before they took the plunge in setting up their own football coaching business. 

Marcelo wondered if he could cope with the business side of things. It took Dave a while to find a company where he felt like he would fit. Simon was unsure if he had enough time alongside his full-time career to fit in being a franchise owner. Russell needed to learn new skills.

All four are now successful franchise owners, making a living out of football with plans to expand their businesses and move into the sport full-time in the future – if they have not already done so. They feel rewarded in every football training session they run and are making a difference to children in their local area.

Ask any of them if being a franchise owner is worth it, and you would get an unequivocal answer – yes. To find out more about joining them as We Make Footballers franchisees, then please see the We Make Footballers franchise website

Alternatively, you can book a discovery call to discuss your options. 

 

 

 

Legitimate careers for women in football

Legitimate careers for women in football smashing through that glass ceiling

 

As recently as 15 years ago, the chances for women carving out a career in the world of football in England were slim. So slim in fact that hardly any women and girls saw the sport as a legitimate career choice. Hardly any English clubs operated full-time professional women’s teams. To play the sport for a living, most women had to be good enough to make it like a pro in North America. And the route to the United States was not exactly straightforward. Other careers in football aside from playing the game were even harder to come by. Women coaches were few and far between.

The likes of Hope Powell who led England at the time being an exception rather than the norm. Women working professionally at grassroots levels were practically non-existent.

Also rare were females in the media. Presenter and pundit Jacqui Oatley blazed a trail when she began on Match of the Day in the mid-2000s, initially suffering severe criticism from those who felt that a woman should not be commentating on a man’s game.

Few role models were carving out careers in the football industry for girls to aspire to be like. Perhaps even more damaging was the impact that this had on how parents viewed their daughters aspiring to work in the sport.

Back then, it looked nothing more than a pipe dream. There were too many barriers coupled with a mindset that football careers were exclusively for males. Understandably, parents instead wanted their children to migrate towards a profession that they stood a chance of progressing in.

Even the FA believed this at one point, banning women from playing the sport for 50 years between the 1920s and 1970s. When you consider these attitudes to female participation in football, it is little wonder that few women ever considered the game as a way to make a living.

Not anymore, however. Women’s football is growing at a rapid rate and within this ever-popular and professionalised sport are numerous career opportunities across different areas waiting to be filled by aspirational girls.

There are several reasons why women’s football has developed into a huge industry of its own over the past two decades. At the highest level, the Women’s Super League came along in 2010 and changed everything.

Every WSL club is now fully professional. Beyond the players and coaching staff who are employed by the 12 sides competing in the top division are development squads and academies.

All this means that more opportunities to progress and play professionally in England exist than ever before – especially as professionalism spreads beyond the WSL.

Clear and improved development pathways exist and the chances of being scouted have increased. England is becoming a hotbed of talent when it comes to young women with players attracting interest from Europe and the US College System.

Whereas previous generations never had role models who had progressed through youth systems at big professional clubs to become England internationals, girls now look up to players such as Lauren Hemp at Manchester City, Manchester United’s Ella Toone and Niamh Charles of Chelsea for what is possible.

Each of those players is equal to the likes of Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka in the men’s set-up. Boys have always had these player journeys to dream of following; now girls do too.

Only a small proportion of the population ever make it right to the top. At the same time, professional players only make up a small proportion of those making a living from football. There are many different paths women can take to find a career in the sport.

How about coaching? Women coaches are now commonplace. Girls are seeing that they can make a living from coaching both males and females at the grassroots level.

At We Make Footballers, we are proud to have some of the best women grassroots coaches in the country working for our franchises. The number of female coaches is only going to increase in the coming years’ thanks to the explosion in popularity of the women’s game.

Over 3.4 million women and girls played football in 2020 according to data from the Football Association, double the 1.7 million playing in 2017.

We Make Footballers are leading the way in getting more girls into football. We believe that greater inclusivity is the key to England becoming the leading footballing nation in the world.

We have recently set up our first girls-only academies and these will continue to be rolled out across England, providing not only coaching for football fanatics but also the belief and inspiration that the sport can provide a legitimate future career.

Take We Make Footballers alumni Ashanti Akpan. She and her brother moved to England from Poland and initially started playing down the park with friends.

There was a noticeable difference to Ashanti in the style of football she had been used to and what she found here, something which enrolling in her local We Make Footballers academy helped bridge.

Training with We Make Footballers enabled Ashanti to develop the technical ability needed to get into Chelsea’s academy. She has since gone on to play for England at youth level with her next goal being a professional contract.

Away from Chelsea and England, Ashanti now has over 50,000 followers on Instagram thanks to her football skills and tricks content. The growth of social media has opened up another way for women to make a career in football, the sort of avenue that a tech-savvy company like We Make Footballers help players explore.

Women’s football in traditional media is evolving too. Games are regularly shown on the BBC and Sky, bringing the sport to a whole new audience. This requires ever-growing teams of professionals behind and in front of the cameras to quench the thirst the nation has for it.

The likes of Alex Scott, Laura Woods and Eni Aluko are household names through their media work. Emma Hayes to has shone whilst moonlighting as a pundit thanks to her eloquent manner and her tactical brain.

It is easy to see why the Chelsea manager is widely considered to be one of the best coaches in the country at any level of football, be it male or female. In 2012, Hayes was working for her family’s business in currency exchange.

And the best news of all? The popularity of women’s football is set to grow even more in 2022. England hosts the European Championships and Hemp, Toone, Charles and the rest of the Lionesses will go into the tournament as one of the favourites having won the Arnold Clark Cup last month.

Women’s football in England is already a fully-fledged industry with all the career opportunities that come with it. Those opportunities are only going to increase as the sport gets bigger and bigger.

We Make Footballers help girls get the football bug through fun weekly training sessions provided by FA Qualified Coaches. Who knows where it might lead them? Playing at Wembley as an England international? Winning the WSL? A scholarship with a top US college?

Helping coach the next generation at a grassroots level? Working in sports and medical science? Presenting Match of the Day once Gary Lineker gives up the gig?

Football is now a viable career path for women. There has never been a better time to get involved. Find your local We Make Footballers academy and book a free session here.

 

10 children per coach: The importance of the 1:10 ratio

One of the hottest topics in the education sector right now is growing class sizes. A combination of factors including underfunding of the system and the Covid-19 pandemic has left primary schools across England trying to educate upwards of 30 children with only one teacher. These “supersized” classes which are fast becoming the norm across England and Wales are in stark contrast to the approach of We Make Footballers. We operate with a strict 1:10 ratio, meaning 10 children to one coach based on science, years of experience, and FA recommendations. With up to four coaches at every session, each player gets the individual attention they deserve to make the most of their potential.

The 1:10 ratio allows a coach to take a keen interest in a child’s development, both as a footballer and a person. At We Make Footballers academies in disadvantaged communities – who are usually the hardest hit when it comes to large class sizes – children will often get more attention than at any other point in their week.

This serves as a reminder that We Make Football franchisees do far more than just provide coaching. They offer a safe space for children to play, learn and express themselves under professional adult supervision. We Make Footballers deliver a community service at a time when schools – often through no fault of their own – are struggling.

Using 1:10 ratio means that players are under constant supervision. Coaches can identify areas where individuals can improve and come up with training plans to help them do so. They can see which players in the group need more help and offer them the support required to boost their progress.

Individual praise is vital when it comes to coaching children and that is made easier when working with a group of 10. Being able to constantly encourage a child boosts their confidence, which in turn makes football more fun and leads to improved self-esteem in other areas of life.

Coaching in 10s also allows for sessions to be safer and more fun. Coaches can be more vigilant and spot incidents as soon as they occur. For players, there is less standing around waiting to partake in a drill, something that can lead to boredom. When children are always involved, they are happy – and happiness is the key to ensuring they want to keep coming back.

To really understand the difference the 1:10 ratio makes, let us compare it to supersized classes. Supersized classes are defined as those with 30 or more children. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of supersized classes in England has increased by 20 percent with over 900,000 pupils now being taught under such conditions.

The pandemic made matters even worse. Children missed out on months of vital education under the guidance of teachers. Persistent absences increased from 15 percent in 2019 to 16.3 percent in autumn 2020. Some estimates have put the number of children who have not returned to school following re-openings as high as 100,000. 

In December 2021, England’s children’s commissioner launched a major investigation into locating these so-called “ghost children” amid growing concerns over the welfare of individuals who had dropped off the state’s radar.

Those who have returned to school have seen their education truncated. Teachers leaving the industry and self-isolation periods for both staff and children have caused disruptions and can be partly to blame for the rise of supersized class, but the real problem is the underfunding of the education system. A decade of education cuts has seen school spending per pupil drop by nine percent in real terms, down from £7,200 in the 2009-10 academic year to £6,500 in 2019-20.

Boris Johnson’s government pledged to commit an extra £7.1 billion in funding for schools in England in 2022-23. That still does not reverse the damage of the past 10 years, leaving spending per pupil still one percent lower than 2009-10 accounting for inflation.

Nor did the commitment impress the government’s “catch-up” tsar, Sir Kevan Collins. He felt that £7.1 billion was nowhere near enough to even start helping schools catch up, quitting his post shortly after the funding announcement in protest by saying it fell “far short of what is needed” to ease the impact of the pandemic on children’s learning.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has made the case for the link between education cuts and supersized classes: “The increase in children in large classes is a direct result of government underfunding of the education system because schools are not able to afford the number of staff needed to maintain lower class sizes.”

Poor communities are the worst hit by an inability to afford staff, which in turn decreases social mobility and increases the class divide. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are often already playing catch-up when they arrive at primary school. 

They are the ones who would benefit the most from smaller class sizes, having teachers who can dedicate more time to their individual needs rather than working with in excess of 30 children. When schools cannot incentivize teachers to work in such challenging environments through decent pay, then class sizes balloon to the detriment of the children who need help the most.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said when asked about supersized glasses in 2021: “It says a lot that the largest class sizes are in the most deprived areas, and that this has got worse over the past decade of government cuts to education funding.

“If the government is serious about equality of opportunity for all children, it must invest so that every family can be certain of a great education, in a great school, with great teachers, regardless of where they are in the country.”

Numerous studies have been carried out around the world over the course of many years advocating the benefits of small class sizes. One of the most famous was the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio – the STAR study – carried out in Tennessee during the late 1980s.

Students and teachers were randomly assigned to either a small class with an average number of 15 children or a larger class of 22. The difference of seven children was a reduction of 32 percent and was chosen to help distinguish what happens when class sizes drop by around a third.

After one year of education in these class sizes, children have tested their English and mathematics skills. Those in the smaller classes had an increase in achievement by an amount equivalent to an additional three months of schooling four years later – proof that size does matter.

Whilst the government struggles to appropriately fund the English education system and children’s learning continues to be damaged by supersized classes, We Make Footballers will always be committed to providing the 1:10 ratio.

When parents trust We Make Footballers to deliver a footballing education for their children, it is our job to do it by giving each player the dedication they deserve to help them make the most of their abilities.

 

Earning the right to win: How We Make Footballers challenge their players to reach their potential

Success and victory in football are never guaranteed. Earning the right to win – a mindset that the best players in the world all share because the importance of it was drilled into them from a young age.

How do you make a child understand that success must be earned? For many, it comes with what they learn playing with friends and older siblings. When family or playground bragging rights are on the line, nobody is going to go easy on a younger child based on their age.

This teaches them that success has to be earned and when it comes, to savour it. The more gratifying and hard-earned a victory, the better it feels. And the better it feels, the greater the desire to experience that feeling again – breeding a winner’s mentality.

Take Declan Rice for example. Now one of the finest midfielders in the Premier League and a mainstay of the England setup, Rice grew up playing with his older brothers Connor and Jordan. 

They did not want to lose to their youngest sibling and so Rice learnt from a young age that he was going to have to try hard and earn success against his own family.

Speaking to the Football Association as part of their Growing Up series, Rice tells the story of how he was determined to become a better player to compete with his brothers.

Needless to say, as a future Three Lions international, he did that: “When I was six or seven, I’d be going to play with them at five-a-side and I remember dribbling around all their mates who couldn’t believe it, for a young kid to be doing that to them.”

Rice did not always win, however. His brothers would occasionally outdo him. And the failures he experienced were as instrumental in his becoming a professional as his success.

They taught him to deal with setbacks – and none was bigger than when Rice was released from Chelsea’s academy at the age of 14 after seven years with the Blues.

Through the lessons of his childhood and bouncing back from defeat, Rice knew that hard work could help him overcome the blow of being told he was too small to make it at Chelsea. He knew he could earn a chance at another academy by increasing his efforts.

Within a few months, Rice was snapped up by West Ham United. After a little over 12 months, he signed his first professional contract as a 16-year-old was handed a senior debut at the age of 18 and followed that with his England debut two years later.

There are hundreds of other stories like Rice’s, of players who were told they were not good enough but who had a steely determination running through them, thanks to their upbringing.

This is why belief in earning the right to win and learning from failure is an important component of the We Make Footballers philosophy

Our franchisees help teach children that work is the key to progression and that they should never take their talent or ability for granted. We ingrain this in our players by constantly challenging them to improve.

We do this by not shying away from taking decisions to move children up. If they are finding football too easy, then it is time to put them against older or better players.

Otherwise, they can be lured into thinking that football is so simple that they no longer need to work as hard as they can to better themselves. 

Whilst it can be tempting to leave the star player at an age group where they dominate so that the team does better, that is no good for the individual. 

We Make Footballers franchisees identify and prioritise what is best for the individual development of every player and will always take the right course of action for them.

The idea of challenging children to drive improvement is common across sports. In baseball, children initially learn to hit with a heavily weighted bat. They find this hard to start with but eventually, it builds strength in their arms.

Once enough practice has been done, the weights are removed. The child now has the strength and technique to hit the ball much further with a normal bat because they had to overcome the challenge of doing so with the heavier bat.

The same concept applies to children playing football as an age group up. They are facing more experienced opponents with higher skill sets. These opponents will not go soft on the younger child just because of their age, meaning that winning is achieved on merit. 

A young player will learn much more in this environment than they would dominate against children their age every week, where they can make mistakes that go unpunished and subsequently uncorrected, leading to bad habits. 

Alan Hansen once famously said of Manchester United’s Class of 92, “You can’t win anything with kids.” Not only did Sir Alex Ferguson prove that statement wrong, but by chucking Gary Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville into his senior side at such a young age, he presented all six with challenges to overcome.

That made them better players in the long run, capable of staying at the top of the game for over a decade. The likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen thrived after being chucked in at the deep end as teenagers, having accelerated their way through age-group football. 

Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka are the latest talents to follow in their footsteps. Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling both burst onto the scene as teenagers and remain key components of current England set up several years later.

One of Ferguson’s predecessors at Old Trafford once said, “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.” Sir Matt Busby was referring to his Busby Babes, who went on to overcome the tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster to become the first English club to win the European Cup.

The best managers develop the best players by challenging them to overcome more difficult assignments through hard work and learning, ultimately teaching them to earn the right to win.

We Make Footballers franchisees do the same – and there is rarely a better feeling in the coaching game than seeing a young player achieve the standards you believe them capable of.

 

Forget fear – why failure is something our young English players should embrace and learn from

Fear of failure has hung heavy overall levels of English football for many years. Never was it more obvious than when England reached the knockout stages of a major tournament and some of the best players in the world become crippled by the pressure, unable to deliver the sorts of performances they regularly turned out for their club sides?

England’s Golden Generation could not get beyond the quarter-finals of Euro 2004 or the 2006 World Cup. They froze against Portugal both times, especially when confronted with the dreaded penalty shoot-out, which every Englishman feared above anything else.

At Euro 2016, the fear of failure meant that England was eliminated in the round of 16 without even making it as far as spot-kicks. The underdogs of Iceland played with freedom, knowing that nobody expected them to knock out England’s millionaires.

The moment that Iceland took their 2-1 lead, England became paralysed with fear. Nobody was willing to take the risks necessary to get the Three Lions back in the game, in case their risk-taking went wrong. At a time when England needed the inspiration to deal a blow to the plucky underdogs, nobody in white was able or willing to provide it.

Thankfully, a change in the way that English football approaches and deals with fear have been ongoing for some time at a grassroots level. Whereas in the past a mistake would result in punishment, mockery, and embarrassment, now it is encouraged as something to learn from.

Creating a generation of footballers who are willing to take risks and become better as a result will ultimately mean the crippling fear that England showed against Iceland becomes a thing of the past. 

We have already seen it beginning to disappear. England played with previously unseen freedom in reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and then the final of Euro 2020. Players like Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka were encouraged to take risks and express themselves on the biggest stage.

We Make Footballers want their franchisees to continue to produce a fearless nation of talent who view failure as an opportunity to bounce back. There should be no fear of making a mistake because mistakes are how we learn what works and what does not.

In all walks of life, failure is necessary for growth. Whether it be missing out on a promotion at work, being pipped on the line in a running race or failing an exam, when failure strikes, we should analyse why and learn from it. Failure is an opportunity rather than an ending.

Imagine you are coaching two young football players. One is fearless and willing to try anything. Shooting with their weaker foot, a Maradona Turn in a tight position, playing out from the back even when being pressed. 

They know that there is a chance that it might go wrong. But they know that if it does, it is an opportunity to learn. They might not hit the target but they will learn that next time, they should take a touch onto their stronger foot.

The Maradona Turn could prove to be the wrong option when there was an easier pass back up the line. And there are occasions when you need to put your foot through it rather than attempt to keep possession.

Failing in any of these given scenarios helps a player grow. Players who embrace the prospect of failure with a willingness to learn from their mistakes will ultimately benefit in the long run as they discover ways to achieve success.

Now imagine the other player. They are petrified of making a mistake. As a result, their body is tense whenever they play. They cannot relax through fear and are subsequently stifled.

In a game situation, they will only ever try things they know they are capable of. Nothing out of the ordinary, like a bicycle kick or a chest back to their goalkeeper under immense pressure, for fear of embarrassment or the reaction, if it goes wrong.

It is the same on the training pitch. They will not stretch themselves or do anything challenging because of the anxiety of it ending badly.

Out of those two players, the only one who is going to have a chance of fulfilling their potential is the one who is willing to fail, dust themselves down and try again.

The other will never progress because you cannot progress if you are too scared to try something new for fear of it not going your way.

We Make Footballers franchisees create an environment where there is no fear of failure. When there is a culture in place whereby failure is accepted as part of the process rather than a big deal, then fear evaporates. 

No child at a We Make Footballers academy will feel like that second player because mistakes are there to be learnt from, rather than punished. You can never get better unless you push yourself with challenges that might end in failure.

Take weightlifting for example. If a weightlifter just lifts the same weight over and over again, they are never going to get stronger and progress to lifting something heavier. 

To successfully lift the next weight, they have to practice at it – and more than likely, fail several times – before it becomes achievable.

A good football coach finds a way to stretch their players with achievable targets. As the weightlifter progresses, they would not suddenly quadruple the amount they were lifting.

Likewise, in football a certain amount of failure – but never so much as to make the player give up – will ultimately lead to success. We Make Footballers franchisees are taught how to get this balance right so that they can help their payers reach their potential.

Our stated mission at We Make Footballers is to contribute to England becoming the best footballing nation on the planet, creating a better football experience for all and resulting in a World Cup win.

Franchisees across the country helping remove the fear of failure from young players is one way to move towards that.

 

Making good practice permanent

Good or bad practice permanently impacts players. It is one of the core principles of We Make Footballers and the print that we have on our shirts. And it underlines the difference that new WMF franchisees can make to children in their local area when setting up an academy.

When We Make Footballers arrives in a town, village or city, children have increased access to the sport. Increased access means the opportunity to play more which, based on the 10,000-hour rule, is only a good thing for their development as players.

The 10,000-hour rule is a concept that can be traced back to a 1993 University of Colorado paper written by Professor Anders Ericson. Titled ‘The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance’, the paper states that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. The definition of practice makes perfect if you like.

Professor Ericson based his findings on a study carried out on child violin players in Berlin. For three years between the ages of five and eight, a group of children in the German capital all practised the instrument for roughly the same amount of time.

At the age of eight, practice time between the children began to differ. Some continued playing the instrument regularly whilst the dedication of others dwindled. 

By the age of 20, the elite violin players amongst the group had amassed over 10,000 hours of practice each. The less able had less than 4,000 hours.

The ability of every violin player roughly corresponded to how much practice they had put in. There was no sign of any ‘natural ability; a child who had become an elite player after only 4,000 hours of practice. The study showed that the more you played the violin, the better at it you became.

But it is not merely enough to practice something – that practice needs to be overseen by a qualified expert, who can teach skills and pass on good habits which then become second nature. This is where We Make Footballers franchisees make a difference.

When humans learn a new skill, the muscles are trained to carry out the movements required until they become second nature. This takes time; our bodies and mind are often unsure and tentative at first.

After hours of practice though, we master the skill to the point where we do not even need to think about what we are doing. Think about learning to drive. At first, there is far too much going on at once to think about – changing gear, indicating, checking mirrors, braking.

By the time you come to your driving test, however, all these separate processes have become one activity that you can perform with ease through practice, practice, practice. 

You will not pass your test though if you have been taught bad practices along the way, like braking with the clutch down, not stopping at zebra crossings or honking your horn at other road users.

To put this into a football context, imagine a player going through one-on-one with a goalkeeper. A child who attends a We Make Footballers academy will have been taught and practised that when you get such an opportunity, you should prepare yourself for the shot by looking up and, if possible, getting the ball onto your stronger foot.

By embedding this as part of the shooting process, it becomes ingrained in the child’s muscle memory. Every time they get a sight of a goal, it becomes second nature to analyse what the ‘keeper is doing and make sure they are properly set.

A child whose sole football practice comes in the park with no guidance from a We Make Footballers coach will likely have a different approach. If they have never been taught what a difference looking up can make, they might end up keeping their head down when they go to shoot.

Years of doing this – or 10,000 hours – will mean that looking up never becomes a part of their muscle memory for the process of shooting. And once the brain has been taught and wired to perform a task in a certain way, it can be very hard to retrain.

Which of those two young players do you think has the better chance of scoring goals? The self-taught child with their head down or the player from We Make Footballers who are looking up, seeing where to shoot, and setting themselves to do so with their stronger foot?

This is what we mean by good or bad practice permanently impacts players. When a We Make Footballers franchise brings good practice to their area, it transforms the footballing ability of children by teaching them the skills and habits they need to become better players.

Thanks to the coaching of We Make Footballers franchisees, over 2000 children have already joined local grassroots teams. More than 160 players have signed with professional academies.

Those numbers will get even bigger over the coming year. Having already grown by 140 per cent in the past 12 months, We Make Footballers are looking to expand to 50 franchises in the United Kingdom and four internationally. This will help us deliver on our mission of contributing to England becoming the best footballing nation on Earth.

Good practice permanently impacts players. If you want to help ensure the next generation of players gets good practice at the same time as launching a career in football coaching, then you can find out more about becoming a We Make Footballers franchise on our website.