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.

 

The role of a football coach

The role of a football coach is about much more than just football coaching. From session planning to analysis to giving feedback, it is a multi-faceted role with many responsibilities.
Being a We Make Football franchisee adds even more variety to the job. You become your own independent business owner, an entrepreneur changing the lives of children in the local community by off2ering them the chance to learn and grow as footballers and people.
In this article, we are going to look at the different aspects of being a football coach, what each role entails and the responsibilities that come with it.

The football coach

The most important role a football coach has is, well, being a football coach. The preparation starts before the players arrive for training with session planning to ensure that no minute of contact time is wasted.

No two sessions are ever the same, especially when it comes to plotting one-on-one training schedules for players. 

One-on-one training is the best way to improve and develop the skills of an individual as it allows them to work on areas of weakness identified by the coach. 

At the end of every session, a coach then offers feedback to the player on what went well, what did not go well and further guidance on how to improve.

Often, this is the most rewarding aspect of the job. When a training plan devised to improve a player’s ability with their weaker foot, their first touch or their timing of a run comes to fruition, it means the coach has fulfilled their primary responsibility – making a player better.

Every We Make Footballers coach is FA qualified and undergoes further in-house training with specialist WMF qualifications, offering the highest possible level of teaching for coaches to maximise both their own and their players’ potential.

The football analyst

To improve players on an individual level, the best football coaches are excellent analysts. They have a keen eye for detail and will watch each player closely, identifying areas in which an individual can improve. This then feeds into those individual training plans just mentioned. 

The analysis is not just important on a one-to-one level, either. When it comes to managing a team, spotting strengths and weaknesses in the opposition and being able to nullify or take advantage of them can dramatically improve the chances of victory. This brings us nicely onto..

The football manager

Team selection. Position of players. Tactics. All of those come under the role of the football manager, who is ultimately responsible for results. 

Whilst a We Make Footballers franchise may not have to worry too much about these areas at weekly training sessions, they are still developing players to go into teams at the grassroots or professional academy level.

Those players will have a better chance of success if they understand what a manager wants of them. Training is the first opportunity to impart the responsibilities of different roles on the pitch, what different tactical plans entail and to help players understand that everyone on the team has a part to play – even those not in the starting line-up.

The business owner

We Make Footballers franchisees are not just football coaches. They are entrepreneurs too, operating a sustainable business that provides a service to the local community in a growing market where there is always room for expansion.

After three years, a smaller WMF franchisee with over 240 students can turnover up to £96,000. A larger franchisee with more than 400 students has an expected yearly turnover of £149,000.

And what if the business is not a potential franchisee’s strong point? Well, that does not matter either. We Make Footballers provide a dedicated account manager. 

A franchisee gets all the help and advice they need in setting up and operating a business, learning how to become an entrepreneur who is in control of their own lives in the process.

The community leader

Football coaches are community leaders, providing an important service to the local area. And the role of football as a force for good has never been more important.

Lockdowns have deprived children of the chance to stay physically and socially active. Mental health problems in children increased from 10.8 per cent in 2017 to 16 per cent in 2020 according to England’s Mental Health of Children and Young People survey.

Budgets have been stretched by the pandemic, meaning that physical education in schools is not a priority. The local government is struggling to find the cash to provide services and maintain facilities.

Amongst all of this, We Make Footballers academies provide a safe space for playing football, exercising and meeting like-minded children. The benefits to physical and mental health are huge.

Franchisees become community leaders, offering an essential service and one which can genuinely change the lives of young people in their local area.

The inspiring mentor

How often do you hear about football coaches being inspiring mentors for young players? No one who watched Ian Wright’s Home Truths documentary could fail to be moved by the way the former England international striker spoke about his primary school football teacher, Sydney Pigden.

Mr Pigden was the man who helped Wright get into football. Without his coaching and mentorship, Wright would never have gone on to make it as a professional. He would never have become Arsenal’s record scorer. And he would never have represented his country.

That is the power and the role that a football coach has. They can change lives through sport. They provide the opportunity for children to do something they love once a week and who knows where that can lead? In Wright’s case, it was to pull on the Three Lions at Wembley.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a We Make Footballers franchise, inspiring the next generation of English football talent and making a real difference to your local community, then please see the WMF franchisee website for more details.