"Kids will take a chance. If they don't know, they'll have a go. They are not frightened of being wrong.. If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. By the time they are adults most kids have lost this capacity, they have become frightened of being wrong.. We're running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities"
- Sir Ken Robinson
Ministry of Football firmly believes that the way children are taught in most schools stifles their natural creative freedom. We believe that following a set syllabus with strict and rigid learning outcomes and methods prevents the children from finding their own best way to learn. In Ministry of Football sessions, we allow children to learn through playing, and we encourage them to experiment with rules, ideas and different ways of doing things. We believe this is conducive to producing a better generation of young footballers.
"The principle goal of education is to create people who are capable of doing new things not simply repeating what other generations have done, people who are creative, inventive and discoverers"
- Jean Piaget, child psychologist and expert on child development
Who were the last English footy players to truly excite? How many can you count, compared to players from other countries and cultures? We are said to be a nation that is best at "sitting down sports" such as cycling and rowing. This may be true, but why? At Ministry of Football, we believe that our culture plays a large part in the way we develop our young sportsmen and women, and consequently in the kind of talent we produce.
Although it is enormously difficult to change our underlying culture, we believe that there are things we can do that will help us produce more creative, exciting and spontaneous footballers:
- In our schools, learning is not cool. The average school environment doesn't treat the geek very well. When I went to school, cleverness was often picked on and conscientious kids often had to hide the fact that they'd done their homework for fear of being picked on. Even in the non-academic sports environment it is common for a kid to be told to "Stop showing off!". At MoF, we understand that football is different from the classroom - and that it can be cool to learn new things. We want children to show off, as much as possible. We are football for football geeks.
- Anyone who's been to an English nightclub will know that we are a people who need to get drunk before we dance. Although this is considered normal in English cities, it is actually not normal when compared to other cultures. It is no coincidence that football is best (as in most successful, skilful and entertaining) played by cultures where dance and physical expression are accepted as part of the sober human experience. Children are less inhibited than adults of course; we must learn these inhibitions somehow as we grow up. At MoF, we believe that part of our role as teachers is to nurture the natural freedom for expression and not let inhibition creep in.
- What is winning? In terms of player development, winning is learning new skills, getting more confident, trying something new, experiencing joy. This is quite different from winning on the scoreboard. By redefining winning we help offer an environment which is more diverse, more inclusive and with the potential to be more successful.
- The beauty of football is that it is a game that naturally provides creative opportunities. No game situation is ever repeated in exactly the same way, and performance can never be pre-planned. Football is opposed and this makes each game completely unique. In order to be successful, there is a need for spontaniety and responding to brand new (but familiar) situations. In this way, football is fundamentally different from the "sitting-down" sport like rowing. And the way we teach football needs to be different from the way we teach rowing too. In order to develop creative and exciting players, children's football needs to be opposed and it needs to resemble the actual game of football itself. This sounds obvious of course. But one of the problems with children's football is that adults run practices which are not game-based, where children have to stay in certain zones and where they have to stand on a cone waiting their turn to be told to move.
- Teaching is different from Learning. Teaching has limits, and those limits are set by the skills and knowledge of the teacher, and by their ability to communicate these skills and knowledge effectively. Even if we are able to teach our children everything we know, they will still not be able to surpass us. And they need to surpass us in order to reach their potential. Learning on the other hand, has no limits. It is unlimited in particular by certain prescribed answers to questions. Instead if children are left to learn their own answers, they will come up with a much wider range of possibilities than if we hand them the answers on a plate. Children's football needs less teaching and more learning.