10 Critical Conditions To Develop Creative Potential In Young Footballers

1.      Delay Playing 11-A-Side For As Long As Possible

The great Brazilian World Cup Winner Juninho, did not play 11-a-side until he was 13 years of age and the same is true of many great players around the world today. The game must be tailored to suit the young players, not the other way around.

Games like Mini Football (3v3 with 4 goals), 5-a-side, 7-a-side and 8-a-side should be used before kids play 11 aside at 14 years of age, ideally.

 2.      More Games And Less Analytical Exercises (Drills)

The “global method” of coaching using simplified games is far more productive than drills.

 3.      Let The Kids Play

Playing uninterrupted games exposes the kids to the unpredictable nature of football, which is essential for both fun and learning and especially creativity.

 4.      Play In All Positions And In Reduced Spaces

Young players up to 13 years of age should play in a variety of positions in order to stimulate their creativity. Smaller, simplified games give them frequent exposure to the different roles within the game: attacking, defending, possession etc.

 5.      You Must Enjoy The Game To Be Creative

Players must experience variety and not rigidity in their games, this leads to fun and enjoyment which awakens their creative instincts. Rigidity only inhibits creativity!

 6.      Let The Players Create Games And Rules

While the many variations of mini-soccer help to broaden their learning experiences, from time to time, the coach should allow the kids a time to play freely and make up their own rules. This freedom helps to encourage responsibility, initiative and improvisation, risk-taking and even leadership, traits that will serve them well into the future.

 7.      Dare To Take Risks And To Improvise

Younger players should be allowed to express their natural experimentation without having to fit into the rigid adult way of playing, even if this means not playing the right pass when it is on, or not playing safe to ensure the win. There will be plenty of time for such rigidity later in life…

 8.      Train The Right Side Of The Brain

The left side of the brain is for logical thinking, learning by rote (memorizing) and typically answering closed questions (with fixed answers), the coach should create situations to stimulate the right side of the brain,  where open, flexible answers or multiple solutions are required to stimulate creativity in his players.  There is more than one way to skin a cat!

 9.      Creative Coaches = Creative Players

Creating a more informal environment without fear of punishment for their “mistakes” (not conforming to the norms of the coach)  allows players  to experiment and try new moves that occur to them spontaneously – much like the “street football” that we all hark back to. Creative play or creative answers should be recognized and encouraged. The global method of playing games is preferred to drills which offer only closed experiences.

 10.  The Environment As An Enemy Of Creativity

Our kids live in a very strict, closed learning environment where adults incessantly demand that they conform to the norms and the answers that are already pre-determined for them. Learning by rote is the predominant mode in schools.

 In football they are also dominated by the strict instructions of coaches who demand total control during training.

On match day when winning the game is at stake this anxiety is even more heightened.

This environment inhibits creativity as the players fear chastisement from their coaches and also other adults present and often their team-mates.

As coaches we need to address this by creating less-formal learning environments during training and on match days for our young players – to create a haven  where they can safely express their innate creativity.


Horst Wein