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MoF Coaching Programme

This video with Les Reed describes how the Southampton Academy curriculum grows, develops and changes in response to the needs of the players. This is an important message. MoF does not have a set syllabus or curriculum of topics, sessions and activities. Instead we select relevant concepts for each unit of sessions, and Lead Coaches design and deliver sessions based on the needs of the group they are coaching.





 2018 Sunday sessions - key themes

The matrix below shows the focus of each of Sunday group for the 2018 programme. We will focus on building and retaining skills within three areas of the England DNA (Staying on the ball, Combining with others, Inteliigent defending). What this looks like in each group will be different, according to the age and stage of the children and how they respond to the teaching and learning that is planned.

Overall MoF aims and values

To develop confident, creative, skilful players who understand and enjoy the game

4 Key Values: Inclusion  Learning  Enjoyment  Creativity


  • Unit- This is a block of sessions, anything from 3 weeks to a term or more, within which we will focus the teaching and learning within a particular Core Concept or Concepts. 
  • Core Concepts - Each Unit of work will focus on one or more of the Core Concepts. For example, Positive, Enthusiastic Defending. 
  • Secondary Concepts - These are the physical, social and psychological areas that we aim to cover in our programme and consider in the design of Units and Sessions. 
  • Lead Coach - This is the coach who plans and delivers the sessions within a Unit of work, and stays with a group through that Unit.
  • Group - A MoF group, for example 4pm Yellow, or Monday 6pm Futsal Club.
  • Problem statement - Each session will be based on an age-appropriate problem statement which the children and coach will look to explore and solve together. For example, 'How to Defend When Outnumbered'. Each Unit will contain several problem statements and the Lead Coach will work through these at the pace of the group.
  • Session Template - This is the form for planning sessions on. It is available, partially-completed, from the MoF website for each group for each problem statement in a Unit. Lead Coaches need to use this Template to plan, deliver and reflect on each session.
  • Game-based - An activity which is opposed (so, attack v defence), usually directional, and usually uses goals or other ways of scoring. Children in game-based activity have lots of decisions to make which relate to the game of football, and the skills they practice are relevant and realistic to actual football. 
  • Active Learning Time - This is the % of a session or activity where children are physically involved in football movement and learning. It does not include time spent standing in a queue, taking a drink break, listening to instructions, or stoppages in activity for coaching to take place. We aim for 75% Active Learning Time in all MoF sessions.
  • Transition - When a team lose the ball they transition from attacking to defending, and when they win the ball they transition from defending to attacking. In the moment of transition all roles and responsibilities for every child change. Transitions are often key moments in the game.  

The MoF Coaching Programme aims to deliver sessions that include game-based learning, problem-solving, decision-making, and enjoyment through play. Sessions should be intense with high 'active learning time', children should have opportunities to combine and collaborate, and teachers should aim to work with individual children to progress them in relation to the problem statement.  

Key Concepts of MoF Coaching Programme

These are based on England DNA for Foundation Stage, focusing on the technical and tactical areas of the game. MoF wants to play a part in the FA efforts to develop a consistent national approach to football development. It makes sense therefore to base our programme on the FA model.

These would be the 9 core concepts, which form the basis for Unit plans and session design:


  • I1. Stay on the ball, master the ball
  • I2. Excite with the ball, and seek creative solutions
  • I3. Connect and combine creatively with others


  • T1. Instinctive decision-making
  • T2. Positive and intelligent attacking reactions
  • T3. Positive and intelligent defensive reactions


  • O1. Positive and enthusiastic defending
  • O2. Intelligent defending
  • O3. Master a variety of defensive techniques and roles

These Key Concepts are based on the 3 C's: Connect, Combine, Collaborate

  • Connect activities are to connect the child to the ball and make them love the ball. The main example of this in the MoF context is arrival activities and one-ball-each activities, getting as much contact time as possible. We could also add in homework tasks, possibly using video, to do between sessions.
  • Combine activities are the two children per team and three children per team activities. They focus on how you can use a partner with the ball to solve a problem. At the FA, they are not generally 2v2 and 3v3 as they are putting a huge emphasis on overloads (2v1, 3v2, 1v2, 2v3 etc).
  • Collaborate are the 5, 6 ,7+ per team and how you start to be more tactical and have more possibilities in your moves (third man runs etc). Some of these types of activities might be included in MoF at the later Sunday sessions, and certainly at Futsal Club.

In addition to the Key Concepts, we have the following secondary concepts. We wouldn't necessarily plan a session on one of these concepts, but we may run activities on them in sessions, and they should be taken into account in every session as secondary outcomes.

Physical and movement skills

  • P1. Move gracefully and effectively in a variety of football-relevant ways
  • P2. Well-balanced, can move with and without ball on left and right side
  • P3. Remain strong and quick through growth spurts

Social and organisational skills

  • S1. Work with others to lead and organise games and activities 
  • S2. Share equipment and roles
  • S3. Make new friends 

Mental and learning skills

  • M1. Ability to reflect effectively on own practice and performance
  • M2. Ability to learn from others, including coaches, parents and peers
  • M3. Abilty to concentrate, doesn't get distracted, manages emotions, tries hard

Each block of sessions (called a 'Unit') will be based on a particular Core Concept or Concepts: For example: Positive, Enthusiastic, Intelligent Defending (O1 and O2).   

A Unit may last a few weeks, or an entire term, depending on the age-group and how the children progress through the work (i.e. if they need more time then we may extend the duration of the Unit).

Where possible, all groups on the MoF programme will be working on the same Core Concepts at the same time.

Each group (e.g. 4pm Yellow) will have the same Lead Coach throughout the Unit. This will allow the coach to get to know the individuals in their group, to plan for individual progress, and to be responsible for the group's learning.

Unit plans, Session plans and Problem Statements

The MoF Director will write a Unit plan for each group. The Lead Coach will be in-charge of designing their sessions based on the Unit plan provided. The Lead Coach will have a Session Template available for them to use, and they must complete this Template for each of their sessions. They will need to print the Template and bring it with them to sessions. (They can either print the Template and then write in the details by hand, or design the session on the comupter and print it).    

Example of a Session Template: How to Defend 1v1

Example of a completed Session Template: How to Defend When Outnumbered 1v2 (with age group 7-8)

Each session will have a problem statement. For example, when we are working on Defending, a session may be based around the problem statement: 'How to defend when outnumbered'.

Each session will be planned and implemented as a 'problem to solve' rather than a set of outcomes to achieve. This is important as it encourages game-based session design, child creativity, and cognitive engagement in play and learning.

The idea is that the coach plans and delivers a session to explore the problem together. It is not envisaged that the problem is 'solved' in one hour-long session, in fact it is very unlikely that this will happen. The Lead Coach will need to decide how many sessions to continue exploring a particular problem statement before moving on to the next problem statement in the Unit. (In reality, problem statements will probably have to be revised and revisited in later sessions, even after groups have moved on to more complex problems).

Often football coaches deliver sessions which teach a solution, a stepover for example, usually in isolotion of any decision-making and outside of the game context. They then ask the children to play a game and see if they can use the stepover in the game, i.e. they ask the children to find a problem which the solution solves. This method of teaching is shown in the first table below. At MoF, we believe it's better to define and explore the problem first, and then see what solutions there might be. This is shown in the second table below. 

1. Teach a solution  2. Find a use for that solution
Stepover Beating an opponent
Overlap Creating and using an overload


1. Explore a problem 2. Find and explore individual solutions…
How to beat an opponent ...Why doesn't that solution work in that context?
How to create and use an overload ...Why does that solution work best for me?
  ...What do I need to learn in order to find more solutions?


The Lead Coach will need to plan the session in detail with regard to the MoF core values. The Session Template will help the Lead Coach plan, design and implement the teaching element of their session. In addition they will be required to also consider the following: 

  • Ensuring the session and activities are safe, and that all Child Protection policies and procedures are adhered to.
  • The session is high on Active Learning Time (i.e. >75%). This means activities need to follow each other rapidly with the next activity being set-up while the children are active; children are put in bibs for games while they are active; children are given something to do on return from a drink break.
  • The session activities are varied and are 'game-based'. Wherever possible, the teaching and learning needs to be planned to occur within small-sided games. (E.g. We can teach 1v1 attacking within a 3v3 game, we do not have to always do this within a 1v1 activity). 
  • Coaches need to plan for ways for children to Connect, Combine and Collaborate, in age-appropriate ways. (See above). 
  • Each session needs to consider which secondary concepts it can include. So for example, you could do a session on Pair Defending and include some time for peer learning and reflection (M1,2) etc.

Interleaving: Building long-term learning

Long-term learning requires that Units are not simply taught and then forgotten. It is better to re-visit previous learning at regular intervals so that the learning becomes ingrained. Therefore, MoF uses an approach called Interleaving which intersperses new learning and new Units of work with ones which have recently been taught.

[This is a different approach to many other sport and learning programmes (school PE for example), where topics are covered for a term or half-term and then may not be visited again for a year or more].  

Below are some links on Interleaving which describe this approach and its merits in more detail:

Current and recent Units and Core Concepts

January 2016 term

Individual, pair and small group defending  (O1, O2 & O3)

April 2016 term

Using feints and dummies (I1)

Attacking rotations and off-the-ball movements (I3)

Individual, pair and small group defending (O1, O2 & O3) - revision sessions

September 2016 term

Stay on the ball (I1) (Stay on the Ball, Topic overiew - word document outlining the Stay on the Ball topic)

Individual, pair and small group defending (O1, O2 & O3) - revision sessions

January 2017 term

Positive and Enthusiastic Defending (O1)

April 2017 term

Transitions (Positive and Intelligent Attacking and Defensive Reactions) (T2 and T3)

Sept 2017 term

Connect and combine creatively with others (I3)

Jan 2018 term

In 2018, we will be looking at how we build and retain skills within the following three areas:

  • Stay on the ball (I1)
  • Connect and combine creatively with others (I3)
  • Intelligent defending (O2)