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An MoF Coach

As well as being punctual and reliable, these are

qualities that MoF coaches should have and be growing:


Assessing player needs

A learning coach


The MoF Session Checklist



The 7 things that a MoF session must have:

Problem statement

Session plan

Game-based learning

Simple, varied activities

High 'Active Learning Time'

Fair, fun, inclusive behaviours

Uninterrupted games (joy & flow)


5 key inputs into the session of an expert MoF coach:

Coaching interventions

Managing difference

Child collaboration and problem solving

Providing feedback to children

Bridging learning



Futsal Club

4pm Red class



End of session de-brief

Assistant coaches



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Children can learn well without us. They don't actually need coaching in order to play together, or to learn. In fact, coaching - otherwise known as "well-meaning adult intervention into children's play time" - can actually have a negative impact on enjoyment, creativity, inclusion and learning.

As coaches, we always need to consider: What overall impact am I having on the lives of these children? Play is important, and uninterrupted play is rare these days. If we are to stop children's play time or alter it's fundamental format, then firstly it needs to be for a very good reason, and secondly, any intervention should be expert and effective.

Lots of what goes under the guise of 'coaching' may actually have a negative overall impact on children's development and enjoyment. This is what is referred to as "anti-coaching", and more can be read about this in the blog post links below:

Minimise non-coaching interventions


Types and styles of coaching intervention

  • Command
  • Trial and error
  • Q&A
  • Observation and feedback
  • Guided discovery



Questions are a great teaching tool. They can challenge players to think, elicit new ideas, and check comprehension and understanding. Coaches should plan which questions to use in a particular activity or game. Think about what you want the children to learn in the activity, and then plan how you can help lead them there through the use of appropriate questions. Planning which questions to ask at what time in the session (and exactly how you will ask them) should be part of your session planning. Questions should relate to the learning outcomes you want to achieve.

Examples of questions: How many ...? (touch) What stops you ...? (space) How will you know ...? (decisions) How can you see ...? (scanning) How can your team-mate help you? What can you do to help your team-mate?

Remember questions aren’t the only teaching tool we can use, and don’t overdo the use of questioning. The more questions you ask, the less power they have. Sometimes children will not know how to say the answer to a question, or they will try to explain and take ages. In these situations, ask them to show you instead (“Can you show me…?”).

Do you need to stop the entire group in order to ask them something? If the question is only relevant to two or three of the children, then just get them in instead and let the rest of the children continue to play and learn.

Connecting with individuals


Motivating children

Here are some good tips for motivating players:

  • Frequent praise for good play, ideas or effort. Relate the praise to a specific action carried out during the session ("I liked that turn Jade, you really moved quickly with the ball into a new space!").
  • Change activities (or challenges within the activity) on a regular basis, every 10-15 minutes. Children have a limited attention span and need tasks to be changed or made more difficult depending upon age/stage
  • Include the players/children in the planning process, perhaps give them the option of two activities. Or help them to set their own rules. Simply asking the players to set up their own gates for a dribbling activity usually increases motivation and focus through a wider sense of ownership of the activity.
  • If someone misbehaves, criticise the action or behaviour NOT the person
  • Use points as rewards e.g “You get 5 points if you can pass against the wall before you score!”
  • Challenge the players – e.g. “Can you stop Billy from turning?”
  • Ask players to give themselves marks out of 10 for how they are doing on an activity. Ask them to set themselves a target (e.g. 9/10) and then give them 5 minutes to see if they can get there.

Vocabulary and communication

Q. What three ‘C’s are the most important when coaching children?

A. Communication, communication, and communication.

Be careful what language you use with young children. They won’t necessarily understand football-words like ‘trap’, ‘time’, ‘man-on’, ‘turn’ etc. To a 3-year old, a ‘dribble’ is not a word they associate with football. You may have to teach the children these words, or you may choose to use their words instead. Use language that is relevant / appropriate to the age/stage (needs) of the children in the group.

Squatting or crouching down when talking to children will mean you are on their eye-line and they aren’t forced to strain their necks to look at you. If you are talking to a group of children, you may find it easier to keep them calm by squatting, as this will encourage them to also sit. Alternatively, you may choose to have a “team-bench” which is your meeting place for your group – somewhere the children sit as you (briefly!) explain what is happening next.

Be careful with your use of the word “Stop!” Try to find more imaginative ways of getting the attention of the group. Use the music to help you.

Remember that we all learn in a wide variety of different ways. Some sports halls will have whiteboards that you can use to assist your teaching. Or you can use a small portable A4 whiteboard. This is a very valuable coaching tool, and can save lots of teacher-talking-time.

Allow for creativity and invention

"Young players should not be pressured by their coach to quickly pass the ball in order to allow for better team-play and winning. They should frequently have the opportunity to be in love with the ball, to dare to improvise their play and take risks, without fearing the possible consequences of having committed a mistake or to have lost the possession of the ball"

- Horst Wein, German university lecturer, Olympic medal winning coach, author of over 30 books on coaching, youth coaching expert

1. Tips for developing creative players

  • Don’t expect all children to come up with the same answers to the challenges they face.
  • Embrace variety, and help children to do the same by sharing the answers they come up with. (“Matt, show us all again how you managed to get past the defender”). This will help them to learn from each other.
  • Encourage mistakes. Often many mistakes are necessary before success happens. Reward experimentation with praise.
  • Help players understand why and how something failed or succeeded, encourage them to think creatively.
  • Allow play to happen, don’t stop games repeatedly.

"Can you teach creativity by getting kids to copy ten tricks used by the top Brazilian players of all time? But who taught the Brazilians?" - Paul Cooper, co-founder of Give Us Back Our Game

Click here and here for more from Horst Wein on developing creative players.

2. The teaching style

"As a coach we need to be clever and creative at finding ways for young people to learn for themselves. Did you learn how to use a computer from someone telling you what to do the whole time or by exploring and finding your own way round it? Do music teachers sit in piano lessons shouting at children "black key, white key, white key"?

- Nick Levett, The English FA

Coaches need to think about when and how much to use a command style of coaching. Certainly, all coaches at MoF need to use a variety of coaching styles, but in order to help children develop creativity we need to give them the freedom to explore football activities for themselves.

For example, setting children a scenario ("you are 2-0 down with 5 minutes to play, how will you change your tactics?") is a great way of exploring the imagination, creativity and game understanding of young players. They may come up with different ways and methods you might not have considered but they need to be given the chance.

Allow children the chance to develop their own way of doing things. Remember that learning is a mysterious process and one that we are all still engaged in (coaches too!). Don't be too rigid, allow players the opportunity to suprise you with their creativity.

3. The importance of Creativity

Success in adult football often arises from making the most out of the few moments of possibility that arise in a game. Games can be chaotic and frantic. Yet at times, there suddenly appears a moment of opportunity. In some games, these opportunities arise only once or twice, and we need to develop players who can recognise how to create these moments and how to take advantage of them when they occur.

The Dutch landscape painter Hans van der Meer has excelled in taking memorable photographs of Dutch football. He usually works high in the stands, usually near the halfway line, from where he aims to capture what he calls 'the moment of tension':

"Every Monday in the newspapers you see the same stupid, boring close-ups taken from behind the goals with long telephoto lenses which distort the space. Those pictures show you football situations but you have no idea what they mean. Two players fight for the ball. So what? Where on the pitch are they? ... Football is a game of space. So why should you leave the space out?"

When we coach children, we need to make them aware of the space around them in order that they begin to recognise when and where they can best use their creativity. Young footballers need to constantly experiment with trying new things in order to learn what's possible given the space and movement around them. Van der Meer describes these moments of possibility very well:

"There are one or two moments when a situation develops and you understand something will happen. This is the moment of tension, or possibility. This is what I look for. You see the possibilities. The next moment they are over - the game moves to something else. Everyone in the crowd shares this tension. The pleasure of going to football is that you all feel this together. It's like chess. When newspapers report a chess game, they don't show you the final move. They show you the dramatic position ten moves from the end because that is the most dramatic situation. The midfield is often more dramatic than the penalty area. The moment of the goal is not particularly interesting. What happens before the goal: that is much more interesting."