Horst Wein RIP

HW 2016

Our dear friend, mentor and inspiration passed away on Sunday 14th February 2016. He will be sadly missed by his many friends in the world of football, hockey and beyond.

Born in Hannover, Germany, Horst lived for the latter half of his life in Barcelona, where he is survived by his two sons.

His influence first in the game of hockey started as a German International player, and later as a coach, leading Spain to their first ever European title and an Olympic silver medal. He was the first to be awarded the title of FIH Master Coach and also became the first ever coach to the European team for their match against Asia in 1975. His book “The Science of Hockey” has sold more copies than any other hockey book.

Horst was encouraged by FC Barcelona to bring his game intelligence approach to football and he worked as a consultant for many top European and International clubs as well as a host of international football federations. His lasting legacy to Spanish football is his famous age-appropriate development model “Futbol a la medida del Nino” which has been the official textbook there for more than two decades.

Horst will be fondly remembered for his passion to bring a child-friendly approach to coaching soccer and indeed all sports.

Here are a sample of some of the tributes made to Horst this week:

 I am sorry for your loss…for the entire world’s loss.  Horst’s vision and his passion were wonderful to behold, and I have no doubt that, with your help, it will continue to sweep the world.  The kids embrace it, and soon enough they will outnumber those who don’t.  I feel privileged to have met him and attended your workshop last year.


I am saddened to learn the news of Horst’s passing. He was an inspirational coach, and a brilliant human being. I regard it as a privilege to have met Horst, and to have spent quality time with him. His innovative approach to coaching and education and his desire to empower others meant his life will always be remembered. He impacted the world in a healthy way.


When great people like Horst pass on we all hurt. We are grateful that he left us with so much to study from, and so much to pass on. Currently, I am in a fight for the basic rights of youth players. Horst and yourself through Funiño and your passion for teaching children have been a great source of strength as I bare down in my battle against those who try to steal the innocence of the Beautiful Game.

Sometimes you know immediately that you have met someone who is a blessing in your life and in that of others. Horst was certainly one of those people and had a vision and a passion to use this great game to empower people, to educate and to serve them. He did this with an open mind and a dreamers heart.



 In Horst, we’ve lost a world class soccer visionary. In my view, his methods put him in a class all by himself. He was unique in that he found the formula to enhance knowledge and passion for the game at the same time. All the while staying true to the simple and beautiful game. Because of Horst, there are thousands of players all around the world that got the chance to truly enjoy playing soccer at a higher level…A sad day. Horst will be sorely missed here… Thankfully he remains on the field with us at every session.


I receive this news with a heavy heart. It was an absolute honor to have met and learned from Horst. My condolences to his family. The work to deliver his message must go on. His influence is visible in the joy of the children around the world playing the beautiful game. The friendships that I have made through my relation with Horst will certainly go on and I also consider them priceless.

I guess now God will be playing FUNino in heaven! Horst has been a soccer angel on earth! He will be missed not only for his soccer excellence but as a great human being!


Horst really lived his life through his love of giving to youth sport…1stly hockey…then Football…he was always ready to learn..and always ready to share….the great thing is he has left a legacy for kids Football just when the world of kids sport really needs to lighten up and allow them to play..lets all carry on his work and help kids enjoy their sport again!


I’m thankful to have known him and I’m so appreciative for the friends I’ve made through him. Horst was one of a kind in many ways and he’ll be missed my many around the world.


We will miss you, dear friend, but your work continues in the many coaches you have inspired to care about their sport, whether hockey, football or other, and the many children who have experienced the joy of exploring their game in a care-free discovery environment.

FUNino Printed Manual Available


FUNino is the fastest growing youth football development game in the world at the moment. Having been part of the Spanish Football Development Model since 1993, this unique game for 7-9 year olds with many variations has captured the imagination of youth coaches across Europe, particularly Germany and Italy and is also used extensively in the USA.





FUNino Printed Manual Available. Click on image to the left to find out more and purchase





 A unique game which encourages Game Intelligence and active participation and many touches to develop technique.

First European FUNino Festival A Great Success

The First European FUNino Festival was held on Saturday 2oth September in the beautiful city of Monza, Italy. 16  teams came from 6 different countries, Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland, Poland and Ireland.

The Festival was run in good spirits and there were no standings or score-keeping, instead the eventual winner was decided by a panel based on the team which consistently played the most attractive football.


The unique FUNino game delivered FUN and action, and of course lots of goals. Three official games were used and each tested the awareness and decision-making of the players as well as their individual technique and teamwork.


The eventual “winners” St Pauli FC contributed some very attractive football and also helped to make many friends over the weekend with boys and girls from other countries.

On Friday, the travelling teams visited Monza Race Track, which proved very popular and over the weekend many visited the stunning Palace and Piazza of Monza.

Thank you to all who attended and to our hosts Brianza Tornei of Monza.

We look forward to an even bigger and better Festival in 2015…


Horst Wein Coaching Clinic Philadelphia

Announcing the upcoming

Horst Wein Coach Training Weekend Clinic

Friday-Sunday 18-20th July

224 County Line Road,Wayne PA 19087

“Game Intelligence in FUNiño”

Programme includes


  • Optimal Youth Soccer Development Seminar
  • Master Coaching Seminar


  • Typical Training Session
  • 24 Preparatory Games
  • 32 Official Games
  • Many Corrective Exercises

 is the first proper football module (for 7-9 year old players) of the Horst Wein Youth Soccer Development Model – Futbol a la medida del niño – the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation since 1993, representing a significant breakthrough in youth soccer coaching and helping to produce a generation of intelligent, creative soccer players and a style has dominated world soccer for almost a decade.

The Spanish National Team have enjoyed unprecedented success winning the European Championship twice and the World Cup once in recent years, the first team to win three consecutive major titles in a row. In the last 20 years their national teams from U16 to the senior team have won 18 major titles , more than the combined total of their two nearest European rivals,  France and Portugal with 8 and 6 respectively.

At club level, Spanish teams have dominated European Football for many years now with 6 Champions League wins, 3 each for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid and 6 Europa League wins shared between Valencia, Sevilla and Athletico Madrid.

 and the development model  have been expanding rapidly in Germany, currently  used at 6 Bundesliga clubs, and the first permanent FUNiño stadium at TSG Hoffenheim.

 is growing rapidly in Italy where it has been recommended to all Serie A clubs by Arrigo Sacchi, Technical Director of the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC). He is a former successful Manager of AC Milan, where he won the Scudetto (League)  in his debut season and led them to back-to-back European Cups (now Champions League) in 1989 and 1990. He also managed the Italian national team and led them to a World Cup Final in the USA in 1994, when they narrowly missed out on penalties to Brazil.

 is a complete competition game and training curriculum for 7-9 year old players but can be used for older players, even up to senior professional players. The games and exercises are often used to enhance game intelligence and sharpen technique as well as for conditioning in older players. So  is valuable for players of any age and is also a great tool for coaches to learn the Game Intelligence Approach.



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

Player Benefits:

Optimal pitch size and player numbers, 4 goals out wide and simple rules means:

  • The game is easy to understand and learn
  • Experiencing success brings greater confidence, enjoyment and motivation
  • More touches on the ball, more goals, more 1v1s and 2v1s
  • Lots of dribbling, then when they get tired, lots of passing
  • Establishes all basic skills – controlling, passing, dribbling, shooting and tackling
  • The player has plenty of opportunity to “be in love with the ball,” to improvise and to take risks without fear of making mistakes
  • Greater participation as each player is vital in a 3 person team
  • Goals  out wide improves perception, peripheral vision and spatial awareness
  • Reduces crowding or swarming
  • More time and space to think and make decisions
  • Great variety of games within a familiar structure keeps it interesting for all
  • The positive environment of discovery instead of instruction is much more stimulating than traditional coaching style
  • Smaller players make up for their physical disadvantages through clever play
  • Rolling substitutions and equal playing time benefits everyone
  • Frequent repetition of basic game situations gives better chance to master them
  • Two goals at each end create options,  stimulating creativity and improvisation
  • Develops support play and off-the-ball play
  • Learning takes place in a fully-integrated holistic environment, just as in the game itself. There is no separation of technical, tactical or physical elements
  • Usually everyone scores a goal!

More goals, more action, more FUN!

Lifestyle and character benefits:

  • Active Lifestyle – combats the impact of sedentary lifestyle and obesity
  • Confidence and self esteem –  through competence and positive environment
  • Endeavour and perseverance – learn to never give up
  • The Ability to Think – invaluable for education and life
  • Emotional Control – contentment and satisfaction through play
  • Better social relations –  friendships and teamwork and a place to belong
  • Fair Play – respect for other children, adults and regulations

Coach Benefits:

Coaches, from the earliest involvement in the game, get to learn a modern player-centred, game-oriented, guided discovery approach and can grow with their players in their understanding of the game. The coach becomes a guide stimulating the players through his skilful use of the games, variations, effective questioning and constant encouragement.  

What other coaches have to say about  and The Game Intelligence Approach:

“There’s nothing like it! The Game Intelligence approach to youth development is what makes Horst and FUNino truly unique. I have been using the model for some time now and have seen fantastic development and understanding. Our kids love to come to training and are always asking for more. Parents are even asking for more as they see their child developing and having FUN at the same time!”

Marc, Texas 



Parents obviously contribute an enormous amount to the wellbeing and development of their children, taking care of them and helping them to adjust to the world around them.

When it comes to sports, parents also have a major part to play – helping their child to choose, partake in, enjoy and possibly make a career in sport, but if not, then at least to have a lifelong enjoyment in that sport. Parents can have a positive or negative influence on their child’s sporting life, depending on their attitude and behaviour.

 The Coach/Parent Relationship

Often there are conflicts between parents and the sporting body which can be avoided with the right approach. Many coaches and clubs see parents as a problem and make the mistake of excluding them to the detriment of the child, family and community.

Parents, coaches and players should realize that they are all on the same team. Enjoyment and success can be assured if this is a harmonious 3-way partnership. When all three are working together for the benefit of the player and his development, there is a much greater chance that this young talent will reach his full potential.

 To nurture healthy relationships with parents, clubs/coaches should:

1. In monthly meetings, coaches should communicate their values, goals and procedures to the parents and also keep in regular contact through SMS, email or other means, so that parents feel “in the loop.”

2. At such meetings they can educate parents about the need for development rather than winning-at-all-costs and what the club is doing towards this end.

3. Parents should be given the opportunity to help out with some of the tasks associated with managing a squad of players, whether logistics, providing refreshments or looking after game statistics, (e.g. shots on goal, ball losses etc.) so that they feel part of the team, just like the kids.

4. Encourage parents to understand and provide a healthy nutritious diet, especially on the days their children play football

 The Parent/Child Relationship

There are some critical factors to be considered by parents if they really want the best for their child and to help them reach their full potential, whatever that may be, and to develop in a holistic manner, becoming not only a good sportsperson, but a good human being.

 1.  Let your child live as a child first, before making adult demands on him.

  • Recognize the needs and rights of children, which are often neglected in organized sports (see Newsletter No. 3 “Player-Centred” and “The Optimal Youth Football Development Model”).
  • Look for a club or organization that respects the natural order of development with an age-appropriate progression of competitions and training for your child. It should have a holistic environment where the wellbeing of your child is valued more than prestige for the club or organization.
  • Recognize that the football field should be a natural “escape” for young players, where they are allowed to express themselves without being constantly limited by the rules of home and school.
  • Football can be a wonderful tool to create a common interest for parent and child, bringing families much closer together, for a lifetime. Make sure that it is a positive social experience, avoiding conflicts.

 “Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults. If we try to alter this natural order, they will reach adulthood prematurely but with neither substance nor strength.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau

 2. Teach your child to value sportsmanship

Football can make a huge contribution to help children communicate and collaborate in a group who share the same passion. Making friends in this way offers a much better social life, not only for the children but also for the parents who meet at the games. The Beautiful Game will continue to attract more and more participants and fans as long as there is fair play and respect for others.

  • Respect the rules and officials involved in the game.
  •  Teach your children the value of fair play in sports and in life.
  • Teach your child to respect others.
  • Teach your child that winning is not everything, and besides, can never be guaranteed. Their focus should rather be on continual improvement and effort, measuring themselves against themselves not others, as there will always be someone better.
  • Football teaches children that the way to success is full of obstacles, it is good to strive for and enjoy achievements in the game, but when disappointments come around, they should be recognized as stepping stones towards further improvement. Parents should use football to  teach children to persevere in the face of adversity.

3. Encourage their involvement, participation and ongoing effort in the game

  • Try to encourage them to take up the game when they are young  5 or 6 years is fine for multilateral activities and 7 upwards for more formal football activities. Some kids need a little push from their parents getting involved in group activities, but always make sure that they are ready.
  •  When possible try to spend some time playing with your child yourself, many football players have valued the time spent with Dad, or Mum in the street or park with a ball, especially when they were very young.
  •  Watch them play whenever you can.
  • Praise your kids, but also all other kids on their team and even on opposition teams if they play well.
  • Be generous with your praise, always looking for positive things and be careful not to be too critical. Mistakes are a necessary part of learning and players should not be discouraged from taking chances especially when it comes to making their own decisions on the pitch and also to showing their creative side.
  • Encourage them to complete their football homework tasks.
  • Support their coaches through your attitude and also perhaps through practical help.

4. Beware of pressurizing them

Take the pressure off the kids. It is a huge buzz for parents to see their child being successful in football, but being too pushy to achieve this can be counter-productive.

  • Try not to live out your own dreams through your kids, allow them to follow their own.
  • Respect your child’s autonomy as a growing, developing young person who must make their own choices in football and life and who benefit more from a gentle guiding influence rather than being constantly told what to do.
  • Be patient. Not all kids progress at the same rate. And learning the game of football takes more time than most people realize. Allow them to be children, enjoying all the FUN elements of the game, so that they can mature into the adult game gradually and naturally.
  • Be a role model for your child. Exhibit generous sportsmanship in defeat as well as in victory. Show them that you have the maturity to cope with losing, bad performances and disappointments and that you, like them can persevere, in the face of adversity and injustice. Often the game of football is very unfair, but that is the nature of sport and many times of life itself.
  • Parents’ behaviour on the sidelines can be either positive or negative. It is better to give positive encouragement, refrain from criticism and leave the instructions to the coach.

 “I am grateful to my father for all the coaching he did not give me!”

Ferenc Puskas

 The Parent-Coach

For better-or-worse, many coaches in youth football today tend to be the parent of one of the players, usually the father.

 Some people would advise to never coach your own child, but in many cases this is unavoidable. Up to 11 years of age, should not be too problematic, but from the age of 12, as they approach puberty, and seek more independence from their parents, conflicts often arise.

 Some dangers for parent coaches to be aware of:

  • Being over-critical of one’s own child’s performance.
  • One’s own child may tend to hide to avoid difficulties from his peers, especially those being “disciplined” by their parent as coach.
  • Showing favouritism to one’s own child, quite often the team captain, who plays more than other kids. This could cause a major conflict with other players and/or their parents.






 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 FUN especially 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!

2. The feeling of being competent in 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.”

3. A positive environment created 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.

4. Parents and coaches should learn to encourage an “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




1. Develop the A, B, Cs of Agility, Balance and Coordination through 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)


Standing still
Turning & Twisting


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%.

2. 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!

3. 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.  


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.



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.”




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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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


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




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 structures we 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.