The beautiful game

Philosophy

What is The Beautiful Game all about?

Our Philosophy at The Beautiful Game is to develop confident, creative, skilful, intelligent footballers through a unique style of coaching using the YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT MODEL as created by the world’s leading youth coach mentor  Horst Wein.

This system has been taught and proven for over 20 years in 53 countries worldwide and to more than 11,000 coaches.

It involves an age-oriented, guided-discovery coaching style using small-sided (simplified) games for both training and competitions and emphasizes development over winning at all costs.

We believe that young players have certain rights and specific needs that must be met while learning the game.

This unique, player-centered model can bring enjoyment of the game to all who participate, while also allowing each one to reach their maximum potential and resulting ultimately in the emergence of the very best players who will ensure the future of the beautiful game.

OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT PART 8

Posted on June 20, 2013

PART 8: MOTIVATIONAL FACTORS IN YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

 Motivation is the most important factor in unlocking innate human potential, including developing young football talent. There are a number of key elements that should be considered when it comes to motivating young players.

  1. Emphasize FUNespecially at the younger ages. Give all developing players the freedom to explore and enjoy the game without interruption as much as possible.

Play is very important to young players, and the opportunity to pretend to be their favourite player, copying his movements and skills, can give them great enjoyment and satisfaction.Simplified small-sided games, in which all the players are heavily involved,are crucial. Everyone wants to play a central role in the game, and the traditional football games which are not appropriate to the age-group do not facilitate this.

For maximum motivational value, ensure that training is game-oriented, and not so much drill focused. The phrase drill is kill is very true! Or, as one of my friends pointed out, DRILLS BORE!

Ideally when 7 year old children are introduced to structured football games, they should be offered a game that entices them into a lifelong love-affair with football. It should resemble the small-sided games that children played long ago, “street football,” with little interference from adults and lots of variation.

Horst Wein’s 3v3 game on four wide goals –  – is an ideal introduction to football for young kids from 7-9 years of age. It has been called “The Revival of Street Football.” With over 30 different games, and 20 variations, this game will keep their interest while also offering them a comprehensive learning curriculum.
And more importantly it offers, more touches on the ball, more action, more shots and goals and ultimately – MORE FUN!


 recognizes that playing is like breathing to children…
…necessary for their physical and mental well-being!

  1. The feeling of being competentin training and during games at each stage of development is crucial in motivating young players. Experiencing success in actions that are age-appropriate, is vital to their ongoing enjoyment, giving them the necessary belief that progress is possible for them. This is why playing games that are too complex for their age is detrimental to the development of young players!

“Abilitiy is what you are capable of doing,
Motivation determines what you do,
Attitude determines how well you do it.”


  1. A positive environmentcreated by the coach, parents and all other adults, during tournament games and in training is highly motivational for young developing players. Praise and recognition of their efforts by adults, especially their coach can help them to flourish. Interaction, inclusion, and being valued should be part of their experience for all children in youth sports. The environment should facilitate playing with and making new friends, which is very important to children.
  2. Parents and coaches should learn to encouragean “open mind-set”in kids, where learning is just as important as winning and life is seen more as a journey than a given destination.

Players need to realize that they are on a life-long upward path of improvement and skill acquisition and that it takes time to reach a certain level.

Praise effort more than results and achievements to teach them the value of applying themselves constantly.

Players should learn to enjoy playing the game itself and concentrate on their own performance rather than worrying too much about the scoreboard, which only inhibits performance.

Help players to realize that they improve at different rates and that their physical development often is uneven. Always make room for late-developers.

“Strive for progress, not for perfection.”


Help them to value obstacles and mistakes as important stepping stones for improvement, and to realize that all the great players learned from their mistakes and persevered through seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Michael Jordan

Posted in Uncategorized

OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 7

Posted on June 13, 2013

PART 7: SKILL ACQUISITION & CREATIVITY

  1. Develop the A, B, Cs of Agility, Balance and Coordinationthrough multilateral games and activities, especially from the younger ages (before 7 years of age). This is crucial for their technical development.

Another term for this basic motor development is Fundamental Motor Skills, usually divided into Locomotor (movement), Stability (balance) and Manipulative (using objects) skills.

Locomotor (movement)

Stability  (balance)

Manipulative (using objects)

Crawling
Walking
Running
Galloping
Hopping
Skipping
Dodging
Jumping
Sliding
Leaping

Standing still
Turning & Twisting
Stopping
Bending
Landing
Climbing

Throwing
Catching
Striking
Bouncing
Dribbling
Kicking

Multilateral games also contribute to the development of the sensory-motor systems in young  football players:

  • Vestibular system (balance and sensory control)
  • Proprioceptive system (awareness of body  movement)
  • Tactile system (touch)
  • Visual system
  • Auditory system

 There should always be a strong social emphasis in Multilateral Games, encouraging more cooperation than competition at this young age.

Multilateral Games should include:

  • Running Games
  • Jumping Games
  • Balancing Games
  • Ball games

The best games include combinations of all or most of the elements above.

For future footballers, regular tag games (from Running Games) are great for improving acceleration,  speed, agility, balance, coordination, perception, anticipation and feinting skills.

It is recommended that 5/6 year olds should dedicate 90% of their session to multilateral games and only 10% to basic individual football activities. They should not be required to play in teams, not even in 2v2 games as this contravenes their egotistic nature at this age.
For 7 year olds half of their session should include multilateral games and the other 50% football games and corrective exercises for the shortcomings discovered in their simplified games.  Each successive year the football specific element increases while the multilateral activities decrease by 10%.

  1. Skill and Creativity is best acquired through small-sided simplified games
  • From 7 years of age children should play small-sided simplified games in training such as 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v2 and 3v3 (especially ) etc. as they include most of the individual and collective elements of play and gradually develop their understanding and decision making.
  • As previously mentioned, an ideal competition structure would be 3v3 for 7-9 years, 5v5 for 10 year olds, 7v7 for 11-12 year olds and 8v8 for 13 year olds, while the 11-a-side game is suitable for 14+ years.
  • Allow the kids to find solutions for themselves to stimulate creativity and imagination.
  • Do not discourage dribbling in favour of passing at younger ages. Later, from 11 years onwards, the artistic dribbler will gradually learn to pass at the right time to the right place

Benefits of Small-sided Games (Competitions) for young developing players:

  • More touches on the ball
  • More dribbling and individual skills
  • More 1v1 encounters
  • More repetition of basic game situations
  • More space and less bunching
  • Simpler lines of interaction and decision-making
  • Encourages better shape and team-awareness
  • Active involvement of all players, no hiding place
  • More attacking opportunities – dribbling, passing and shooting
  • More defending opportunities
  • Faster play and faster transitions from defence to attack and vice versa
  • More goal-mouth action
  • More goals
  • More FUN!

These benefits are obvious when young players play games that are smaller than the adult 11-a-side game, but are even more pronounced when the age-appropriate competitions mentioned above are played. E.g. 3v3 games (especially , 3v3 on four goals), will usually have 3-5 times as many touches, 1v1 encounters, dribbles, shots, individual skills and goals than 7v7 which is often played for children as young as 7!

  1. Other opportunities to further enhance the acquisition of individual skills:
  • Before training and in warm-ups is a good time for all sorts of skill improvement with the ball like free-kicks, dribbling skills, or tackling.
  • Homework:  children under 12 should be given specific exercises to practice at home, individually or with family members or friends.
  • Each week, specially-designed training sessions, for individuals or groups of players  (goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders or attackers) should be organized to practise the skills which need improvement.
  • Quite often school-going  players  learn as much, if not more, in the off-season at football camps than in the whole football season. They have more time to dedicate to their hobby: Football. That is why the off- season can often be the high-season for learning and improvement for youngsters. Players often make tremendous leaps forward during this holiday period, having plenty of time to spend with the ball and their team-mates.  

Posted in UncategorizedYouth Development

OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 6

Posted on June 5, 2013

PART 6:INTEGRATED TRAINING THROUGH GAMES
Using simplified small-sided games in training rather than isolated physical conditioning through laps and sprints and technical training in drills is a more integrated approach to player development. It includes the physical, technical, tactical, psychological and social elements of the real game and, most importantly, helps players to develop game intelligence, the most important factor in football.

There is a better transfer of technique through playing in games and the physical conditioning is much more football-specific and intense in small-sided games.

All players, especially young players enjoy playing games much more than drills, which is hugely motivational.

All four aspects of Game Intelligence – perception, understanding, decision-making and execution – are improved in simplified small-sided games.

For all youngsters the FUNino  games (3v3 with four goals) offer a superior menu of games and variations to cover many important game situations and develop game intelligence in attack, defence, transitions and ball possession.

  1. Ideally kids should play football every day, often without supervision.
    Just as in times gone by, street football, or pick-up games that happen naturally are a great environment for kids to develop on their own without being over-coached. Alternatively, organized activities either in school or at the club/academy, will serve this purpose.
    2. Kids should train at least three times per week for 90 mins.
    Unfortunately football talent, like any other talent, needs time and dedication. Ideally kids should train regularly and especially using small sided games.
    3. Use games rather than warm-ups/physical training/drills.
    Most coaches today recognize the need for small sided games in training, there are so many benefits, see introduction above.
    4. Give players technical homework.
    Rather than spend your group training time working on technique, give the young players technical homework, such as wall-ball or other exercises that they can play with the friends to improve their first touch, passing, shooting, dribbling etc.
    5. Simplified small-sided games should correlate with their competitions.
    It is critical that the training is specific to the competitions that the children play. We recommend that the training games have less numbers than their competition games, e.g. 3v3 training games for 5/7-a-side and 4v4 for 8-a-side. Also they must focus on age-appropriate topics, not just sized-down adult football.
    6. Exercises/drills only when prescribed to fix a deficiency.
    Drills/exercises have their place to correct technique and tactics. We find it is much more motivating for players when the coach helps them to find any deficiencies in their game and then apply appropriate “corrective exercises.”
    7. Variety.
    Players enjoy variety in their training and a good menu of training games with associated variations not only keeps it interesting but actually helps to reinforce skills and tactics.
    8. Repeat specific game situations until lessons have been reinforced.
    Usually a minimum of 5 repetitions is required to consolidate learning of game situations. It is important to give players this time before moving onto a new topic. Through repetition of basic game situations, players learn to read the game and make better decisions.
    9. Let players choose what they would like, sometimes.
    Giving players responsibility for their activities is very empowering to them and offers a refreshing break from being always told what to do.
    10. Progress the games as the players achieve mastery.
    Once the players have mastered a given situation, then it is time to stimulate them with a new challenge or a progression of the same lesson they have learned. Development thus becomes a virtuous path of continuous improvement and success.

THE GAME IS THE TEACHER!

Posted in CoachingHorst WeinUncategorizedYouth Development

OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 5

Posted on May 29, 2013

 PART 5: A MODERN COACHING STYLE
There have been many beneficial innovations in football coaching and education in general over the last decade or so, but not all coaches have been implementing them. The genuinely modern coach who has the welfare and development of the kids at heart will endeavour to fulfil the following criteria:

  1. The coach/manager should emphasise development more than results!
  2. He should  know and respect the rights and needs of his players  (see Horst Wein Model) at each age group and also their individual needs.
  3. He should have a good knowledge of the game of football and the appropriate curriculum for the age group he is working with.
  4. He should act fairly and evenly with all the kids under his care to help all of them reach their full potential.
  5. He should use words and actions of encouragement towards the players, creating an enjoyable and friendly environment for them to blossom.
  6. He should use less instruction and more active learning, empowering the players through giving them responsibility and welcoming their opinions.
  7. He should use games more than drills in training, so that the game itself becomes the teacher.
  8. He should use the Guided Discovery method of learning with his young players, employing more questions/problems which they must answer/solve for themselves. This ensures greater participation and attention, deeper knowledge of the game and greater retention of lessons learnt, helping to create decision-makers on the pitch.
  9. He should be able to use different games/variables/progressions in training to keep his players interested and ensure steady progress, always challenging the players, but not overstretching them, so they develop in a continuous experience of success.
  10. He will need a lot of patience and perseverance, bearing with the foibles of young growing children, and allowing them to develop steadily and naturally.  He will also need the moral courage to defend his players against the pressures from the other adults who demand more than is fair from the players, especially with regards to results.

Below is a table comparing an ideal modern coach with an extreme example of traditional coaching in an environment of “Winning at all costs.”

MODERN COACH

TRADITIONAL COACH

PLAYER-CENTRED

  • The player’s  innate potential is valued
  • Collaborative learning with the coach
  • Players empowered  through involvement

COACH-CENTRED

  • The player is considered an  “Empty vessel”
  • The Coach as the font of all wisdom
  • Players are not as engaged

DEVELOPMENT FIRST

  • Long term development strategy
  • Recognizes the time it takes to develop
  • Model with progressive curriculum
  • Children are allowed to be children
  • Players experience all positions
  • All players get a fair chance
  • More rounded, creative players

WINNING AT ALL COSTS

  • Short term winning all important
  • Must have immediate results on the pitch
  • The next game is all that matters
  • The adult game is forced on children
  • Early specialization to win games
  • Bigger stronger players get most play
  • Obedient competitors but  lacking in flair

HAS A PLAN

  • A complete Model for Optimal Development
  • Age-oriented curriculum
  • Step by step approach to coaching
  • Covers all topics comprehensively
  • Players can reach their full potential

RANDOM TOPICS ONLY RELATED TO WINNING

  • A collection of hints, tips and drills
  • Not usually age-appropriate
  • Pressured approach to winning
  • Topics mainly related to winning
  • Talent is often wasted

GAME-ORIENTED

  • Global Method (Games) for “open” skills
  • Integration of technical, tactical,  physical and cognitive elements of the game
  • Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU)
  • Simplified Games at the heart of training
  • Exercises for correction after the game
  • Greater motivation for players in training
  • Greater transfer to the real game

DRILLS ORIENTED

  • Analytical Method (Drills) for “closed” skills
  • Segmentation of each element
  • Conditioning using exercises
  • Game usually as a reward at the end
  • Conditioning drills  before the game
  • Little motivation for players in training
  • Poor transfer to the real game

GUIDED DISCOVERY

  • Active learning
  • Dialogue
  • Effective questioning
  • Deeper learning experience
  • Greater retention of learning
  • Create Decision Makers

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Passive Learning
  • Monologue
  • One-way instructions
  • Often counter-productive
  • Poor retention of learning
  • Create obedient robotic players

COACHING SKILLS

  • Knows how to get the most from his players
  • Knows his topics very well
  • Modifies conditions/rules  to suit his players
  • Knows when his players are ready to progress
  • Skilled at asking questions
  • Uses a wide variety of stimuli
  • Gives players opportunities to discover things for themselves
  • Creates a healthy environment to stimulate creativity and game intelligence

COACHING SKILLS

  • Usually focused on winning
  • Focused on winning topics mainly
  • Usually does not use variables
  • Less aware of his players progress
  • Doesn’t usually ask questions
  • Often limited and rigid topics
  • Demands obedience and conformity to the accepted norms
  • Constant instruction frustrates creativity in players

POSITIVE ENGAGING ENVIRONMENT

  • Stimulation
  • Great variety
  • Encouragement
  • Progressive – Success builds on success
  • Motivated players

MILITARY BOOTCAMP

  • Fixing  “mistakes”
  • Limited variety
  • Pressure
  • Games and training often not age-appropriate
  • De-motivated players

 

Posted in CoachingHorst WeinUncategorizedYouth Development

OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVLEOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 4

Posted on May 11, 2013

PART 4: AGE-APPROPRIATE COMPETITIONS

The concept of readiness is very important in youth football development. It is important to recognize the stages of childhood development when putting together a programme of youth football activities. Unfortunately, in many cases we adults involved in the game are impatient to introduce young children to the adult game and the adult way of training.

For optimal development in youth football the following points should be considered:

  1. The ideal competition structureswe would recommend for optimal development are as follows:
  • Multilateral games primarily before the age of 7
  • 7/8/9 years   = 3v3 on four goals (FUNino)
  • 10 years         = 5v5
  • 11/12 years  = 7v7
  • 13 years         = 8v8
  • 14+ years      = 11v11

Children younger than 7 still need to spend a lot of time developing their Fundamental Movement Skills, sometimes called the ABCs (Agility, Balance and Coordination). Fun games with lots of different movements, even without a ball are recommended for this age group. These multilateral games should still be used in later years, but to a lesser extent.

For children 7-9 years of age we recommend FUNino, our 3v3 game with 4 goals.

10 year olds play 5 –a-side and 11 and 12 year olds play 7-a-side football.

We highly recommend that for one year, players at 13 years of age play 8v8 on a pitch with the goals moved up to the 18 yard line.

It is far better for children not to play in a league competition until at least 11 or 12 years of age. Many professional academies do not play competitive football until the late teens.

There are so many benefits to small-sided games for young players: more touches on the ball, more creativity and skills exhibited, more goalmouth action and chances to score, more transitions from attack to defence and vice versa,  simpler decision-making and more repetition of basic game situations, to name a few.

  1. Delay 11-a-side soccer until 14 years at the earliest.
    Contrary to popular belief, the game of football is not a simple game. There are many tactical decisions to be made in the complex adult game and having an age-appropriate, step by step approach to learning and experiencing the game will bear more fruit than rushing children as young as 11 years of age, sometimes,  into the adult game. Also, children before the age of 14 usually haven’t experienced their growth spurt yet and are very small to be playing on a full size pitch. The distances young players must run on a full size pitch involves too much anaerobic activity which is unhealthy at this age.
    The small-sided games above offer a far more appropriate structure for children’s competitions.
  2. Multiple Competitions instead of one long competitive league per season which can create all sorts of pressures from the adults, it is far better to have short tournaments, one day events, triathlons, pentathlons and decathlons. Children benefit greatly from variety and also from shorter competition structures. In general having a less competitive structure at the younger ages reduces stress and enhances creativity along with many other developmental benefits.
  3. The right size pitch, ball and goal for each age group.
    In our hurry to have young children play the adult game, we often force them to play in the same conditions, forgetting that they are still developing children. Just imagine the unfortunate 11 year old goalkeeper in the adult goal playing 11-a-side. He may stand no taller than 4’6” and still has to defend a goal 8 foot high by 24 foot wide! Size 3 balls are recommended for 6-9 years, size 4 for 10-13 years and only from 14 years should the size 5 ball be used. Having the right size goal makes a massive difference to the young players. We recommend 4x2m goals for 5 a side and 6x2m goals for 7 and 8-a-side football.
  4. Address the relative age-effect.
    Many studies like the one below confirm that across all elite sports, children born early in the sporting year have a distinct advantage over those born later in the year. In elite football, early born players are 4 times more likely to succeed than late-borns.

Usually, the simplest and most effective way to address the RAE, is to have non-competitive game structures up until the age of at least 11 or 12 and ideally until the mid-teens.  This way, when winning is less important than development, all players are given a fairer chance to play and more equal access to quality training.

  1. Include multilateral competitions, not just football-specific.
    Young footballers, even up to the early teens are still developing their Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) sometimes called ABCs, (Agility, Balance and Coordination). Including multilateral games, with different movement patterns will help to establish these fundamental skills, along with the football specific skills. In training multilateral activities should make up a good proportion of the overall programme, as much as 60% at 6 years of age, then 10% less for each successive year.

The above structural considerations are already bearing much fruit across Europe and many countries have moved closer to the ideal game structures recommended here with non-competitive small-sided games becoming ever more popular.

Posted in Horst WeinPhilosophySmall Sided GamesUncategorizedYouth Development