How to choose the right football academy for your child

Selecting the right youth football academy for your child can seem like a daunting task. There is so much choice out there and it is a decision that most parents feel under a lot of pressure to get correct.

That is understandable. The right youth football coaching academy will not only help a player improve and maximise their abilities, but also provide a positive experience of the sport. If a child has fun and enjoys their time playing football, then they are more likely to develop a lifelong love of the game.

This is particularly important for younger children taking their initial steps in football. First impressions are everything; a child’s first impression of playing football will have a huge impact on shaping their opinion of the sport and whether they wish to continue playing it as they get older.

Conversely, a bad experience at a youth football training academy can be enough to put a child off football for life. Nobody wants that to be the case – especially if the child has always harboured dreams of playing football, only to be forced into a change of opinion through poor coaching or a bad environment.

The good news is that there are several aspects of a youth football training academy you can look at to help you choose the right one for your child. The following will help you get started.

Quality of coaching

The first place to start is the quality of coaches. Parents want their children to be taught how to play football by people who know what they are doing, who have themselves been taught best practices on how to coach.

In England, football coaches undertake a series of qualifications via the Football Association. Completing the Introduction to Coaching Football course gives a coach the basic skills needed. 

From there they can progress through their UEFA C, UEFA B and UEFA A badges right up to the UEFA Pro Licence, which professional football managers must hold to work in the Premier League.

A good youth football coaching academy will only employ FA Qualified Coaches to ensure that sessions are delivered in line with best practices. At We Make Footballers, we go further than just FA coaching badges by putting coaches through additional in-house We Make Footballers qualifications.

These qualifications add to the knowledge base of our coaches, helping them to develop players based on the We Make Footballers philosophy.

The philosophy of a youth football training academy

Different youth football training academies will have different ideas about the way they think the game should be played. This is called their footballing philosophy and it can be an important consideration when it comes to choosing where your child plays their youth football.

You should attempt to find a football academy that fit with how you and your child want to play and the sort of player you wish them to become. Once upon a time, English football valued size above all else when it came to identifying youth talent. 

The biggest children were those who academies focussed on; those with the strength to outmuscle opponents, the height to win headers and who could kick the ball the furthest. Smaller, technically gifted players were often overlooked.

That has changed over the past 10 to 15 years. English football and the FA looked at the success of Spain and then Germany, playing brilliant-to-watch possession football delivered by players like Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, Phillip Lahm and Mesut Ozil and decided that was the way to play.

Listed on the We Make Footballers website is our philosophy. We believe in a quick, clever and attractive style of football which breaks the pitch into thirds. Players are taught the value of keeping possession, fluidity of moment and moving the ball positively. We encourage children to find space and use it to take the most open route to the goal via disguised, quick and unpredictable play. 

When selecting a youth football coaching academy, find out what their philosophy is. If they do not have one, that can be a warning sign that they may lack the focus to deliver the training needed to help your child fulfil their potential.

The ethos of a youth football training academy

The philosophy of a youth football training academy informs you what sort of player they will aim to fashion your child into. The ethos tells you a little bit more about how they will do it and the environment they provide for players.

As noted in the introduction, the environment is arguably the biggest factor in whether a child enjoys their football coaching and sticks with it or wants to give up the sport. It is therefore a massive consideration when choosing a youth football academy.

Some academies believe that their purpose above all else is to produce winners. They want their players to win every match and progress into professional clubs. That can create a fear of failure and heap undue pressure onto young players, taking away a lot of the fun and joy football is meant to provide for children. And when the fun goes, unhappiness quickly follows.

The ethos of We Make Footballers is to provide football training in a fun and safe environment for children of all abilities. Whether they are the next Lionel Messi or just want to come along, make friends and kick a ball around for an hour a week, We Make Footballers overriding aim is to make football enjoyable for everyone. Once you start with that, anything is possible.

Safeguarding

Fun and safe. You should only consider enrolling your child in a football training academy that gives you the confidence that they will keep your child safe.

All the normal aspects of safeguarding apply here. Consent forms, DBS checks and first aid training would be top of that list. In a physical contact sport such as football, the first aid element is particularly important.

Injuries and accidents will happen from time to time. Those delivering football coaching sessions to your child need to know how to deal with them. The basics of this are covered by the FA’s coaching qualifications, whilst the best youth football academies will supplement the knowledge of their coaches by providing additional training.

Needless to see, all We Make Footballers coaches are DBS checked and first aid trained. We take safety as seriously as anything else because without safety children cannot have fun playing football.

Approachability and interaction with parents

Every parent who wants the best for their child will take a keen interest in what is happening at their weekly football training sessions. Parents may have questions and concerns. They might want to know about the progress their child is making, areas to improve and if there is anything that can be done away from the football academy which could help development.

Some coaches will balk at this sort of interaction. They view parents as interfering and less knowledgeable than the coach, making themselves unapproachable in the process. If a coach makes it well known that they do not want to talk to parents, then that is often a bad sign.

Youth football is a two-way street. The best youth football academies have parents on board, viewing them as aiding the process rather than hindering it. Feedback to parents reassures them of the high-quality football training a child is receiving, informing them where a player is at and where they are headed next in their development.

The relationship between child and coach is important – but so too is the relationship between parent and coach. That stems from good communication, either face-to-face or via digital means. 

Coaches who take the time to include parents or share news and success stories via social media are going above and beyond the hour-a-week session, they have with their players. That shows their passion and dedication to the role. 

Organisation

You can tell a lot about a football coach by how organised they are. Nobody wants to turn up to youth football training where the coach is late or is still setting up when the session is meant to be getting underway.

The best youth football academies will have every session meticulously planned. Not a minute will be wasted as the coaches make the most of working with their players, delivering an hour of fun with no standing around.

Another reason to choose a football academy with an excellent organisation is that coaches become role models to the children they work with. Having a coach who is consistently late, does not set a good example about the values of punctuality.

Youth football training academy success stories

Some parents will want cold, hard evidence of the quality of a youth football training academy via success stories. But what exactly is a success story at the youth level?

Only a tiny, tiny percentage of children who play football in England ever go on to make it as professionals. Any youth football coaching academy that says every player they take on will be placed in a professional setup is making a very outlandish claim. 

When it comes to youth football and managing expectations, academies should deal with realism. For We Make Footballers, it is our aim that every child we work with for at least four years between the ages of 4 and 12 goes to senior school having been developed into a football player good enough to get into the school A-Team.

From that basis, bigger achievements can grow. We Make Footballers alumni have gone on to play in the youth setups at professional clubs including Chelsea, Brentford, Norwich City, Watford, Fulham and Arsenal. Some have even played for England.

Success stories are all relative to the starting point of the child. By focussing on getting every player into the school A-Team, We Make Footballers show a commitment to every child who joins their academies rather than just those with the potential to make it to professional clubs. And that is the real success story.

Reputation

The reputation of a football coaching academy can tell you a lot about whether they are right for a child. How long have they been around? If they are still going from strength to strength a decade after opening and provide weekly training sessions all around the country, then chances are they are doing something right and will have the reputation to back that up.

Online reviews now cover every area of life, from restaurants to hotels to tourist attractions and yes, even football coaching academies. Google allows customers to review anything they want whilst companies like Trustpilot offer star ratings. As the name suggests, these independent reviews can be trusted.

Other parents can also be a great help in selecting the right youth football academy for your child. Ask questions about where their children attend football training, whether they enjoy it, the positives and negatives and whether they would recommend them.

Sometimes, word of mouth and a positive impression left on fellow parents which they are then willing to articulate can be the decisive factor in choosing a youth football academy. Which is another example of why the approachability and interaction coaches have with parents can be so important.

We Make Footballers provide youth football training in a fun and safe environment for children aged between 4 and 12 across England. To find out more from one of our FA-qualified coaches, find your nearest academy and book a free introductory session for your child, please visit the We Make Footballers website.
















Football vs Metaverse: Can the beautiful game survive in the face of popular new technology?

The digital world is changing. The next big development is set to be the metaverse, a technology which will create a 3D version of the internet in which users can live in via avatars. And if our lives become even more digitalised, what will the metaverse mean for football?

Football has always adapted and survived, no matter what technological developments have come along in the two centuries humans have been playing the beautiful game. Television and the internet were at one time or another considered serious threats to the future of football, and yet here we are in the 21st century with it still the most popular sport in the world.

When it comes to the metaverse, similar concerns are being expressed. How can football compete when, rather than leave the house to play or watch the sport, users of the metaverse will potentially be able to do so from their own home via virtual reality? 

Why go to a stadium to watch a live game when you could sit in your lounge and experience Manchester City v Liverpool via VR from a digitalised version of the Etihad? That one is a lot closer than you might think, too…

But rather than being a threat to football, might the metaverse provide further opportunities to grow the sport that does not currently exist? Could the metaverse be good for football? 

So many questions and so many theories, which we are going to try and pick our way through to answer the question of whether football can survive when the metaverse becomes universally accessible and popular.

What is the metaverse?

To the uninitiated, the metaverse might sound like something that is 50 or 60 years away in terms of technology. It is predicted to be an $800 billion market by 2024 thanks to technology giants such as Facebook – or Meta as they have now conveniently rebranded – Google, Microsoft and Apple all pouring money into the metaverse to make it a reality.

What they are attempting to build is a 3D version of the internet. The metaverse would be a digital place parallel to the physical world. Here, you would live out your digital life rather than doing so in 2D through a computer or smartphone. For example, Amazon and eBay would become online shops you walk into and physically browse, rather than websites to buy from.

Users of the metaverse will own a single avatar and interact with other uses through this avatar. As well as an avatar, you would own digital assets inside the metaverse, which will likely be recorded on a blockchain. 

This is one of the reasons why cryptocurrency and NFTs are such hot topics currently. Despite all the controversies surrounding these forms of digital currency, when the metaverse arrives they will have a huge part to play in our lives.

The metaverse and Fortnite

Still confused? Okay, let us try and break the metaverse down even further. Think about the game Fortnite, which has over 350 million registered players worldwide and had generated £6.5 billion in revenue within two years of its release. 

In Fortnite, users have a personal avatar with which they engage with other users. They earn virtual currency to spend on items within the game, such as outfits for their avatar. Adults and children who play Fortnite can at a very basic level live in a fantasy digital world.

The next step up from Fortnite is the simulation game Second Life. Rather than being a shooter game, it allows users to do everything they would in real life through their avatar. You can shop, eat, shower and interact with other users. Think The Sims, but interacting with other real humans rather than characters created by a computer.

Experts believe that the metaverse will take this onto another level. Virtually reality will become so encompassing that users will float into the digital world, being able to do everything from buying land to hosting parties to marrying other digital avatars.

How to access the metaverse

To experience the metaverse, you need to have virtual reality hardware such as Google Cardboard glasses or a VR headset. These devices produced by different companies currently allow you to access small areas of the metaverse linked to them; like how Fortnite and Second Life are separate entities with no crossover.

At this moment in time, there is no way to move freely through the metaverse, as there is in the physical world. Each part of the metaverse is like an app on a smartphone; opening an app takes you to a small corner of the digital world. You open another app to enter another. No apps are truly interconnected, as the metaverse aims to be.

What will change this fracture in the metaverse is a single gateway being invented through which the whole world can access it. When this happens, users will have full connectivity and be able to move through the entire metaverse at will, as VR takes them into a parallel digital universe.

The single gateway will also make it easier for those without specialist VR hardware to enter the metaverse. Although not as immersive, smartphones, tablets and computers will enable access to the metaverse. 

Think about the Pokémon Go phenomenon, when users could go outside and catch Pokémon in their local park through the creatures popping up on the screen of their smartphone in real-time. That is a very basic example of how the metaverse might arrive through devices millions of us already own.

The metaverse and watching football

We already have some idea of what the metaverse will mean for football, from a spectating point of view at least. Serie A has been leading the way with AC Milan broadcasting their home game on May 1st 2022 against Fiorentina into the metaverse, setting a world first.

This involved an online pub where Milan fans with access to the metaverse could come together to watch the Rossoneri as they chased their first Italian title in 11 years. 10,000 users from the Middle East and North America were issued with free digital tokens to access the pub and spend on merchandise for their avatars such as Milan scarves and replica shirts.

There was a big screen on which users could watch the game together. Two further screens carried match statistics. Fans could talk and interact with other supporters, discussing the game, Milan’s hopes of winning the championship and celebrating their club’s 1-0 win.

Speaking to the BBC about the experience, Sayed Hassan Al Mousawi from Bahrain said: “I could watch the game, run around and read stats with my avatar. I also put on the new Serie A anti-racism campaign kit.”

Serie A has leapt in an attempt to reverse a decline in its fortunes. Once the most popular league in the world – as anyone who grew up watching Football Italia on Channel 4 during the 1990s can attest to – it has fallen behind the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga in recent years.

Unable to attract the sort of interest of those major European leagues through superstar players and big-money contracts, Italy has instead decided to target Generation X through the metaverse. 

Serie A views the metaverse as a way of bringing people from all over the world together to share an authentic experience of what Italian football is like. The aim is that full, immersive exposure to the passion and culture of the game as if the user was in actual Italy – which is not currently possible through the existing internet – turns them into fans of the league.

Digital stadiums in the metaverse

As the most-watched football league in the world, the Premier League is less inclined to look for ways to grow its audience. But that does not make English football immune from exploring how the metaverse can be used to make it even more popular.

Manchester City has hired a metaverse director to explore how the richest club in England can best apply their resources to new technology. Championship strugglers Birmingham City might seem an unlikely club to be leading the way, but they have already digitally mapped their St Andrew’s Stadium.

It seems likely that the Citizens will follow Birmingham’s path, producing a digital Etihad Stadium to sit in the metaverse. At some point in the not-too-distant future, that could mean City fans from Brisbane to Beijing to Bangkok to Buenos Aires being able to pop on a pair of VR glasses, enter the metaverse and experience a game as if you were in the actual physical stadium.

The atmosphere, the crowd, the stands, and even the action on the pitch would be immersive. Multiple camera angles and players wearing motion sensors would allow a game to play out in front of a metaverse user, all from the comfort of their own home. 

A digital Etihad could hold a million fans, offering a full Premier League matchday experience to metaverse users from all over the world, rather than just 53,400 supporters per game filling the stadium’s capacity. Football would become even more of a global sport, accessible to anyone with a connection to the metaverse.

The metaverse – bad news for match-going fans and broadcasters

It is not all good news, of course. Whilst Premier League clubs might lick their lips at the potential cash cow of charging metaverse users to watch from their digital stadium, there would be a knock-on impact in terms of atmosphere and the experience of the actual match-going fans.

Supporters who spend time and money watching their clubs live already complain about being an afterthought when it comes to inconvenient kick-off times and other pitfalls of the modern game. Match-going fans would likely become even less of a priority for clubs, given the power of the metaverse to reach even more potential customers on a global scale.

Broadcasters would surely resist such moves into the metaverse, too. The value of the billion-pound contracts signed by television companies for exclusive rights to show live Premier League football would diminish if fans could instead watch from a digital stadium in the metaverse. There is a long way to go before digital stadiums do become a reality due to the impact they would have on stakeholders with significant interests in football.

Grassroots football coaching and the metaverse

Much of the theorisation so far about the impact of the metaverse on football has focussed on what will happen at an elite level. Not much thought has been given to grassroots, which is odd is without strong grassroots, the sport cannot thrive at the top.

In terms of grassroots coaching in England, the metaverse has the potential to enable many more people to become qualified FA coaches. This can only be a good thing when it comes to creating more playing opportunities for children and raising standards.

Since 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, the FA has begun to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology and remote learning. In 2021, they replaced the FA Level 1 and Level 2 badges with new qualifications, the Introduction to Football Coaching and the UEFA C Licence.

Whereas FA Level 1 and Level 2 required coaches to attend sessions in person, the new programme involved remote learning through digital courses which could be completed online at convenient times. 

Previously, a coach may have had to give up an hour to drive to a venue, another hour in a coaching session, and another hour returning home. Remote self-learning online instead enables the coach to complete each lesson as and when is convenient to them.

The FA has seen a surge in interest since adopting these changes. The metaverse offers the potential to go further. Rather than learning in 2D through a screen, a coach could pop on their VR headset and partake in a session in immersive 3D inside the metaverse. 

This has the potential to combine the best elements of the previous physical attendance approach with the flexibility of the new coaching qualifications which have proven so popular. More prospective coaches will be encouraged to get involved and receive a higher standard of education through the metaverse, which can only be a good thing for grassroots football in England.

The impact of the metaverse on children’s football

In terms of the impact that the metaverse will have on children’s football, there are genuine fears. How can the sport survive when kids can interact, socialise and walk through a digital world without even needing to leave their homes? Might future generations spend more of their time in the metaverse rather than the actual physical universe they live in? 

And those worries are well-founded. Many children are already fixated on social media and video games. The popularity of Fortnite amongst the younger generations shows that there is a big appeal in stepping into and spending time in an online world. An even more encompassing, realistic online universe brought about by the metaverse will be an even bigger draw.

There are reasons to remain optimistic about the future of children’s football, however, even in the face of the metaverse. When television came along in the 1950s, it was meant to be the death knell for football. Why go out and play the sport or watch in stadiums when this brand new technology could beam games in glorious black and white into your homes?

Specialist sports channels alongside the advent of the Premier League were next. Wall-to-wall coverage would kill off the grassroots game. The internet, live streaming, and social media… all were meant to have had a detrimental impact on football at a grassroots level. And yet here we are, 70 years on from television and with all those subsequent advancements in technology with the beautiful game still in rude health.

We Make Footballers, coaching children football and the metaverse

Rather than worrying about the problems the metaverse could cause for football, football should be looking at the opportunities it presents. One of the reasons why We Make Footballers have grown to become the biggest football academy for children aged 4 to 12 in England is because of our willingness to adapt to the changing world around us.

Social media has been a huge part of that. Footballing influencers with their tricks and highlights videos present a cool image of football, which reaches children even as they spend hours of their day scrolling through Instagram or TikTok. Social media has allowed football to showcase itself to children who may otherwise not have been touched by the sport.

Nobody quite knows what the metaverse will look like yet, either. There are plenty of ideas, but until it becomes a staple feature of our lives through the invention of that single gateway then it remains all theory. Until we do know, it is hard to pass judgement. There is every possibility the metaverse will end up being a good thing for children’s football. 

What if a child could attend their physical, in-person We Make Footballers football training session on a Tuesday and then access another session later in the week, held in the metaverse? That would give our FA qualified coaches additional contact time with a child, improving player ability and helping further enshrine our philosophy of good practice makes permanent.

The metaverse cannot replace physical exercise and its benefits

One reason to be confident that grassroots football can survive even in a world where the metaverse exists is that England as a country has never been so aware of the benefits of physical exercise that playing sports like football offers.

We have the pandemic to partly thank for that. Lockdown brought into sharp focus the importance of regular exercise for physical and mental health. It seems impossible that running around a 100 metre by 68-metre area of grass, kicking a ball and socialising with friends can be fully replicated in the metaverse.

As a result, there will always be a need for training academies like We Make Footballers provide football in a fun and safe environment for children. We believe that our football sessions go beyond improving football ability; they also promote a healthy lifestyle. When the metaverse comes into being, that will be more important than ever.

What we are seeing even as we teeter on the brink of the next technological revolution – and flying in the face of suggestions that the internet is killing football – is an expansion of our franchises. More children are now playing football, helped by the increasing popularity of girl’s football which will be further fuelled by Euro 2022 coming to England in front of record-breaking crowds.

So, to answer the original question – can football survive in the face of popular new technology like the metaverse? With an open-minded approach and a willingness to embrace the future, football can not only survive but thrive. It is another challenge which We Make Footballers are looking forward to embracing.

We Make Footballers offer weekly football training sessions for children aged 4-12 across England. To find your nearest academy and sign up for a free taster session, please visit the We Make Footballers website.

 

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.

 

How We Make Footballers use the FA Four Corner Model

Technical ability. Physical attributes. Tactical awareness. Social skills. Combine the four and what do you get? The best route to developing children into football players capable of making the most of their talents. This is the FA Four Corner model, an approach that underpins the We Make Footballers syllabus. 

Franchisees and coaches base their work around the four corners as a process to improve the footballing ability of their players at the same time as developing skills that will serve them well in life away from the pitch.

In this article, we are going to look at what the FA Four Corner model is, how it works and why we believe it to be the best approach to coaching the game.

 

What is the FA Four Corner Model?

After many years of analysis, leading coaches at the FA concluded that ‘FA Four Corner model’ make up football – technical, physical, tactical, social. Each corner features a set of skills and attributes which can be worked upon to drive improvement.

The four corners are not separate from each other; rather, they work together in tandem. Each corner impacts on another and improving one area can have a knock-on in all the others, a domino effect of improvements.

Say a player is struggling in the technical corner with their first touch. A means to improve this would be by working on their reaction time, a skill found in the physical corner. 

Having such a clear framework laid out through the Four Corner Model concept enables a coach to tailor individual training for every player they work with to address specific weaknesses, creating a pathway to improvement.

This is important as each player a coach works with has different strengths and different weaknesses. There are different ability levels when coaching children, different ages.

Each player has their own needs at certain points in their development. One child might be tactically unaware whilst another needs to work on social skills such as reaction to the failure of communication.

The best coaches provide different, appropriate support to each player. That comes from the FA Four Corner Model, giving every child who attends a We Make Footballers academy the best chance of improvement.

 

The technical corner

There are 14 different skills in the technical corner, including ball manipulation, dribbling, one-on-one, turning, passing, first touch and finishing. Mastering each is essential to player development with an equal focus on both left and right sides. 

If a player can finish for fun with their right foot but struggles with their left, then the technical corner will help a coach identify the shortfall and set out to drive improvement on the weaker side.

The technical corner is the one that relies most heavily on improvements from other corners. For example, almost every technical skill can be boosted by focussing on the physical corner; speed can improve dribbling, coordination can improve turning, balance and power can improve finishing.

 

The physical corner

12 areas make up the physical corner, including speed, agility, balance, power, endurance, strength and reaction time. We have already seen how it goes hand-in-hand with the technical corner, but it also feeds into the tactical corner.

Once a player takes a tactical decision about what they are going to do, they need to make a certain movement to carry out that decision. 

The faster they can react, the better the chances of success. Every action in football comes from a movement, highlighting the importance of focussing on physical skills.

Working on the physical corner benefits children beyond the football pitch. At a time when school budgets are being cut and PE and after school clubs are falling by the wayside, We Make Footballers often provide a huge percentage of a child’s weekly organised physical activity.

The physical corner helps children become fitter and healthier. That serves as a reminder of the service that our franchisees provide to their local community and the health and wellbeing of children around the country.

 

The tactical corner

In the tactical corner, the focus is on areas such as decision making, off the ball movement, 360-degree awareness, creating space and the rules of the game.

A lot of football coaching academies tend to place most of their focus on the technical side of the football. Football is not just played on grass, but in the mind as well. 

The best players though are the ones who are the cleverest; they know the optimum moment to play that through ball. They are aware of exactly how much space and time they have before they are closed down. They can make an off-the-ball run that drags a marker away, making room for a teammate to exploit.

Our We Make Footballers franchisees develop children’s game intelligence, knowing that creating footballing thinkers is every bit as important as having a player who can perform 100 drag backs perfectly.

 

The social corner

Last but by no means least, we come to the social corner. Social skills are often the most underrated aspect of football and yet perhaps the most important.

Football is a team sport, which means success comes from positive relationships between players and coaches. Children need to develop the social skills necessary to build relationships and a certain level of mental resilience to play the game.

You see the importance of good relationships at the highest level. When relationships break down, pundits talk about managers “losing the dressing room” or players “downing tools.” 

Having a team of superstars is all very well and good, but unless you operate as a cohesive unit through positive relationships then you will never achieve what you should be capable of. See Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

We Make Footballers franchisees are not dealing with the sort of egos that exist at the Parc Des Princes. But coaches still need to foster strong relationships with their players and in turn help nurture the social skills needed for children to develop positive relationships and friendships with each other.

There is of course more to the social corner than just relationships. Other skills include teamwork, communication, reaction to failure, concentration, composure and leadership. Not only are these skills important in football, but they are also transferred to everyday life.

This is another area in which We Make Footballers franchisees play a role beyond football. By focussing on the social side, a coach can recognise where children might need a little more support in developing skills that will serve them well at home, at school and in the future. 

At a time when school focus is being pushed purely to academic attainment, We Make Footballers coaches fill the void by identifying social areas in which children are lacking and helping them develop.

Central to all of this is establishing a safe environment that allows children to express themselves, have a go and learn with freedom where there is no fear of failure.

The social aspect of football – playing in a team and succeeding collectively – is part of what makes it so much fun. And fun is the overriding aim of We Make Footballers.

We Make Footballers franchisees take all four corners of the FA model and use them to ensure that children enjoy their football, make the most of their abilities and develop as both players and people.  

 

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.