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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



Muswell Hill's Number 1 Football Development Programme



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In many ways, the Ministry of Football programme is about teaching children how to solve problems. These problems will be football-related, like How and Why to Dribble in a Game, but they may also be non-football related, like How to Find a Partner (for very young children) or perhaps How to Explain an Idea to Others.

The MoF Coaching Programme sets out what football learning we will focus on in a particular term or session (e.g a unit of work on Intelligent Defending). It is the Lead Coach's responsibility to plan, deliver and evaluate the programme of learning for their group in accordance with the concepts and topic of the Coaching Programme. 

During the unit of work, each MoF group should work through a set of problems which are related to the unit or concept. These problems should be appropriate to the age and stage of the group, and will probably start off with something basic about understanding of the core vocabulary and individual techniques involved. From then the Lead Coach can move the group on to more complex problems as and when they are ready.

Problem Statements

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' for all children 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).

Identify and define the problem first, not the solution

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:

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


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. Explore a problem 2. Find and explore individual solutions…
How to beat an opponent ...Why could that solution work in that context?
How to create and use an overload ...How might that solution work best for me?
  ...What do I need to learn in order to find more solutions? etc


The Lead Coach needs to make sure that they set the context for the problem in the early part of the session, and also to revise what relevant earlier learning has taken place in previous sessions. Make sure that the group understands what the context of the problem is. This may take some imaginative practice design, or it may be that some conditions or challenges in small games could bring the problem out.  

Linking sessions together to build a programme

Sessions on the MoF programme should not be 'stand-alone' sessions. The learning should build from week to week within the unit, and sessions should be linked together to form a recognisable syllabus within which children's learning is built and developed. It is the Lead Coach's responsibility to plan and deliver this programme and ensure the learning is progressive and is built on.

It is therefore a good idea to start each lesson with a recap of the previous week's (or weeks') learning. This does not have to be a sit-down lecture. A clever coach will be able to visit the previous learning within a game-based activity, through which they can quickly bring out previous learning, and introduce the next part of learning (identify and define the next Problem Statement).

Lead Coaches need to carefully consider where the group are in relation to the unit and Problem Statements, and need to judge when to move the group on and when they need more time to explore, digest and learn within a particular Problem Statement. This is the skill of the coach, and an example is given below. 

Example table of Problem Statements

The table below shows the likely Problem Statements for the unit Intellgent Defending. There are coaching points and practice considerations included in the table, although these are not meant to be prescriptive or all-inclusive.

It is recommended that all Lead Coaches start the unit with the simplest Problem Statement (How to Defend 1v1) and assess where the children are at in relation to this to begin with. (For more able and/or older children, the first session may include an assessment in relation to two or three of the simpler Problem Statements). After the initial assessment, the Lead Coach can plan the next session.

It is not advised for the Lead Coach to plan all the term or unit's sessions in advance. The learning and progression needs to take into account the responses of the group. For example, to say in advance "the group will be spending 3 weeks on the first problem statement and then move on to the second etc", does not take account how they actually respond. A skilled coach will watch and observe the group as the week's progress and move them on at a pace they feel is appropriate.  

Over the course of a term, it is expected that all groups should move to more complex and difficult Problem Statements, and into pair and perhaps team problems. However, it is not a race. Groups will move at different speeds. We might expect a group of 6-7 year old beginner/intermediate children to cover 1v1, 1v2, 2v1 and 2v2 Defending in a 10 week block of sessions (so the bulk of their learning may happen in 3v3 games), whereas we may expect a group of 9-11 year old advanced children to move to team defending and look at more complex problems like "How and Why to Set up to Counter Attack". 


Group Area
(Problem Statement = "How to…")
Things to assess, elicit and teach Practice considerations
Individual Defend 1v1 Being patient; Approach to ball, eyes on ball; Stance and jockeying; Preventing shooting opportunities;
Angles, distances and speed in relation to angles, speed and distance of opponent and goal;
Using sidelines and forcing them away from goal (goal-side defending);
Recognising clues and triggers of opponent and responding to these; Identifying opponent's weaker side and forcing them to play on this side;
Dummying to tackle;
Making a tackle; Winning the ball and transition to attack or secure possession; 
Variety of 1v1 situations, not just face-to-face dribbling at each other. Consider also: Attacker receives a ball with back to goal; attacker dribbling in different areas and directions;
Always include a transition, so always have a purpose for the defender after winning the ball e.g. a goal to score in or an area to break into
Defend when outnumbered 1v2 All of the above plus:
Delay; not committing
A strategy: force ball to wide area and then don't allow the ball to be crossed into the goal; show down touchline;
Intercepting - being ready, when and how;
When to press and when to drop; defending in relation to distance from goal;
Prediction and recognising triggers;
Winning the ball to attack or secure possession
All of the above plus could include:
Use off-side to help defender and make situation realistic;
Have a recovering defender or time-limit of the attack, to make the situation more realistic and give defender a purpose to delay
Pair Defend as a pair 2v1 All of 1v1 defending, plus:
Two roles: Pressure and cover;
Distances and angles of cover to team-mate in relation to pressure defender;
Working together - communicating and problem solving;
When do the Pressure and Cover role switch?
Pressing together as a pair
See 1v1 Defending: Need variety of 2v1 situations; and element of transition when winning the ball
Defend as a pair 2v2 All of the above plus:
Cover dual role: to provide cover if first defender is beaten 1v1, and also to provide pressure if the ball is passed to second attacker;
Cover player intercepting pass;
Switch of roles between two defenders;
Attackers overlap - what happens?
All of the above plus:
Add in a goalkeeper, and coach this role:
Communication, providing cover behind the defensive pair;
Providing support on winning possession
Defend as a pair when outnumbered 2v3    
Team Defend as a team (of 3 to 5)    
Defend a counter-attack    
Press as a team (how and why)
Set-up to counter-attack (how and why)
Plan and review a defending strategy (based on a game scenario)    




Group Areas
(Problem Statement = "How to…")
Things to assess, elicit and teach Practice considerations
Individual Run with the ball and dribble with the ball under control Keep ball close, weight of touch, both feet;
Control the ball, don't let the ball control you;
Head-up to see obstables and spaces;
Recognise the sidelines and confines of the pitch;
Using diffferent parts of the foot, both feet;
When and how to use the sole of the foot for tight spaces
Area size and shape will affect the difficulty of this task - amend this to fit the numbers in the group and/or to make the task easier or more difficult;
The decision-making in an unopposed practice comes from the interference of other dribblers, so ask the children to make sure they don't bump into others;
Making the practice directional will make it more realistic - so consider adding in gates to dribble through, areas to enter and exit;
Never use queues - all children go at once
Change speed and direction with ball under control All of the above, plus:
Able to stop the ball and move and turn in a variety of ways, and with both feet;
Move to accelerate; decelerate;
Use feints and dummies;
Keep the ball within the pitch;
Move into spaces; avoid opponents;
All of the above, plus:
We need to actually teach the movements of turning and changing direction. The coach should spent time with those who need help, and assign homework tasks to practice the unopposed techniques involved;
Ensure all children work on both feet
Dribble away from an opponent All of the above, plus:
Recognise opponents movement and speed; respond to opponent;
Move away quickly, secure the ball;
Recognise the sidelines as danger areas;
All of the above, plus:
Consider the variety of 1v1 situations that may occur; and try to avoid lots of similar face-to-face 1v1s. In order to create different types of 1v1 engagement, consider using defenders in areas that attackers need to get through, or consider teaching within small-sided games
Dribble past an opponent (using feints and dummies) All of the above, plus:
Use feints and dummies to beat an opponent and get beyond them;
All of the above, plus:
Add in a goalkeeper, as this makes the practice more realistic as it affects the space behind the opponent, and restricts the attacker from releasing the ball far beyond the opponent (ask GK to act as a sweeper);
Many children will resort to shooting from distance if they can rather than beating an opponent. Deal with this by adding condition that  they can only score once they get into final-third, or by playing with back-to-back goals so they have to get beyond the goal in order to shoot.
Keep the ball when under pressure All of the above, plus:
Shielding the ball; securing possession; using strength of body;
Create space for yourself;
Head up to see support options;
Using tricks and turns to escape tight situations
All of the above
Receive the ball under pressure All of the above, plus:
First touch of the ball; move towards the ball or not;
Body position to receive ball;
Escaping tight situations;
Recognise sidelines as dangers and try to keep the ball away from them;
Recognise where the danger is coming from; heads up to scan before receiving ball;
One-touch play; sole control;
Using both feet depending on where danger is coming from; 
All of the above
Pair Use an overload 2v1 to beat an opponent When to pass and when to dribble;
Weight and accuracy of pass;
Feint to pass then dribble and vice versa;
1-2s and overlaps;
Anticipating what will happen;
Decide what to do next before the ball arrives, not after it arrives;
Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals
One-touch play
All of the above
Create and use an overload 2v1 to beat an opponent Recognising when a 2v1 happens in a game situation; how to create that situation and exploit it; 1-2s and overlaps; anticipating movements and situation and responding early; making something happen on the pitch with positive movement; Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals  
Keep the ball under pressure and use a team mate to escape Shielding the ball; using feints and dummies; securing possession; create space for yourself; head up to see support options; weight and accuracy of pass; support your pass; Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals  
Support a team-mate who is under pressure Angles, speeds; move to take opponents away from team-mate to create space for themselves; 1-2s and overlaps; recognising and anticipating the need to support and move early; Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals  
Team Move the ball quickly in order to keep the ball Choice of pass; Support runs and off-the-ball movements; Weight and accuracy of pass; first touch; one-touch play; anticipating where you need to be in one or two passes time; predicting future situations; move before the situation develops not after; Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals  
Keep the ball and attack when a defence is organised Recognise when defence is organised; choice of pass; team strategy to draw defence out to create space behind them; dribbling to make space for penetration; moving the ball in order to move the opposition; changing speed and direction of attack; Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals  
Keep the ball and counter-attack an unbalanced defence Recognise when defence is unbalanced and when to counter-attack; quick forward play and movement; one-touch play; recognise when counter-attack is over and secure possession of ball; "third-man" runs; recognising role when all team-mates have gone forward (support and cover); when defending, think about "what will happen if I win the ball?", or "what will happen if we intercept that pass?" - i.e. be ready for the transition on winning the ball, prepare to attack; Goalscoring and finishing - including sweaty goals