1.    Players rights as developing children must be respected:

  • The right to enjoyment both in training and in competitions, with a wide variety of activities that promote fun and easy learning.
  • The right to play as a child and not be treated like an adult, either on or off the playing field.
  • The right to participate in competitions with simplified rules, adapted to their level of ability and capacity in each stage of their evolution.
  • The right to play in conditions of greatest possible safety.
  • The right to participate in all aspects of the game.
  • The right to be trained by experienced and specially prepared coaches and developers.
  • The right to gain experience by resolving most of the problems that arise during the practice.
  • The right to be treated with dignity by the coach, their team-mates, and by their opponents.
  • The right to play with children of their own age with similar chances of winning.
  • The right not to become a champion.

2.     Players needs as developing children must be considered:

  • The need for new experiences
  • The need for recognition and encouragement
  • The need to be given responsibility
  • The need for play
  • The need to socialize with others
  • The need to be active
  • The need to live in the present
  • The need for variety
  • The need to be understood by adults

  3.     Players should be the decision-makers on the pitch.
Too often, we as coaches want to control every move and we develop robotic, nervous players on the pitch, often distracting them from playing the game through a constant barrage of instruction and criticism.

If the enjoyment of the game is taken away by adults
who rant and rave on the touchline and the grassroots game
becomes, in effect, a computer game controlled by dad’s,
the opportunity for young players to plant the seeds
of a lifelong love affair with the game will be diminished.
Les Howie

4.     Players allowed to learn by mistakes.
Making mistakes is part of the lifelong learning experience for every human being, but in football, especially with young players who are still learning the game, this is not a “luxury” afforded them by adults. Sadly, criticism does not correct mistakes but creates even greater pressure and consequently more mistakes.

“From the brain’s point of view, mistakes are stepping stones
on the journey to deeper knowledge and success.”
Horst Wein

 5.     Players encouraged to try new things.
Young players are very inquisitive and are naturally inclined to explore and discover new things, the game of football should be a safe and enjoyable environment for them to experiment in.

6.     Players encouraged to find their own solutions.
Nobody likes taking instructions, especially young people, and often the coaches constant instructions are counterproductive. Far better to let young people find their own solutions. Guided Discovery as a coaching style brings greater attention and retention than the traditional monologue of the coach. Quite often we, as coaches, hinder the player’s development rather than aid it. The term “over-coaching” has often been used about this effect.

7.     Players are allowed to dribble.
Everyone complains about the lack of dribbling despite all the drills and moves that are being taught, but the biggest factor is that players are not given the freedom to express themselves through dribbling. In our anxiety to rush the adult passing game, we restrict the players’  individual freedom and in later years we end up with players who cannot beat a man or use their skills to devastating effect in attack.

8.     Resist the urge to “grade” players under 10 years of age.
This is one of the most contentious topics in youth football, at the grassroots level. Despite the seeming logic of having players play at “their own level,” it is far more natural for children to develop together in mixed ability environments with their friends. The stronger players have more of a challenge if their teammates are not as strong and the weaker players benefit from the leadership and support of having a stronger player in their team. This way, also, late developers are given a chance to blossom. Often the grading of players has more to do with their size, athleticism and strength  and many times this has to do with the relative age effect, where young players born early in the year are more advanced than the late-borns.

Most of the grading takes place because of a culture of “winning at all costs” in games that are too advanced for the young players (e.g. 7-a-side for 7 year olds) and in competitive leagues that begin too early. We are always in a hurry to force children into the adult game!

Make sure your training and competitions are player-centred and watch them blossom!


By Horst Wein and Dermot Dalton


For many clubs, coaches and parents now is the time when we must choose between winning medals and trophies or allowing our children the chance to enjoy the game of football and develop in a more appropriate structure than currently exists.

For the sake of the children themselves, most importantly,  and then for the sake of the game, we need to seriously, not just look at alternatives, but find ways to implement them,  and sooner rather than later.

Jose Mourinho puts it well:
“The problem is, in England (and many other countries), you teach children to win the game, in Spain, we teach children to play the game.”

Horst Wein who designed the first age-appropriate, optimal development model more than 30 years ago recommends:

1. No league football before 11 years of age. Having a league for children as young as 7 is entirely inappropriate. Young children do not think too far ahead into the future and having such long term consequences can weigh very heavily on them.

If winning the league is all that matters, then many serious problems arise including:

  • The Jekyll and Hyde effect on adults. Parents and coaches have a tendency to change personality once there is something at stake, and quickly lose perspective. Some local games are treated like Champions League finals, as if there were millions at stake. This pressure  and the behaviour of adults at many schoolboy games ruins the game for children.

 If the enjoyment of the game is taken away by adults who rant and rave on the touchline and the grassroots game becomes, in effect, a computer game controlled by dad’s,  the opportunity for young players to plant the seeds of a lifelong love affair with the game will be diminished.

  • The “selection” process denies many children an equal opportunity of participation. When winning is all that matters, the smaller creative kids don’t get much of a look in. Usually the bigger, early developers get more football with suits a more direct style of play.

Unfortunately in all sports the relative age effect, where children born early in the sporting year are chosen over the late-born kids, means that many kids lose out badly in the short and long term. Studies show that more than 80% of kids who make it into the elite level of sport are born in the first three months of the year while less than 10% are born in the last three months.

Imagine a club who selects the “best” players to play the highest league at a very young age. (Children as young as 11 years of age are playing 11-a-side, which is very damaging to their development). In a squad of 16 players, most clubs that are aiming to win the league, will have a first 11 and 5 “squad” players. These unfortunate 5 substitutes will get very little game time during the year, and these are supposed to be among the best 16 players at the club!

Many kids are late developers in sport, but unfortunately, the win at all costs system does not cater for them at all.
When you put all these factors together,  it is this authors belief that anything from 50—70% of all football talent is actually wasted rather than developed in the current system of competitive league football at the younger ages.

  • The quality of football suffers as coaches become more concerned with results than the style of football played or the natural expression of creativity and skill by the young players. “Kick and rush” and the “long ball” prevails. The constructive possession-based football that we have all come to admire at FC Barcelona and Spain cannot flourish in such a climate.
  • The quality of coaching suffers. Playing in leagues at very young ages means that we don’t actually encourage coaching at all, we create managers, who specialize in winning tactics and not in developing players.

While a small number of players may do well by playing in early league formats, the majority do not do well, especially the late-born, smaller, quieter players and the late developers. But even those bigger players who do well in this system often suffer as they come depend more on their size and strength and often fail to continue to work at the skill and creativity elements of the game. They are often over-played, even sometimes playing at older age-groups and unfortunately many suffer burn-out and end up dropping out altogether in their mid-teens. In the long term, there are few winners and many losers in this system!

2.  An environment of creativity, innovation, exploration and FUN must be created by forward-thinking organisations, clubs, officials, coaches and parents. The adults in football would do better to act more like adults and create an environment where children are allowed to be children. Some progressive organisations have already made great strides by introducing less-competitive structures and small-sided games. This will go a long way towards creating a healthy environment where young talent flourishes.

3.  Emphasize more constructive football rather than “kick and rush.” It takes courage to stand against the tide of winning at all costs and the style of football that it engenders. Hats off to all those who are beginning to show such courage, playing constructive football and allowing the children to make mistakes and learn from the, they will reap the benefits, in the medium to long-term if they are willing to sacrifice short term gains.

4.  Less shouting and stress for the players during games. Parents and coaches shouting from the sidelines is very unhelpful to young players for so many reasons. Firstly, they often cannot actually hear what is being said, and often it is confusing when there is more than one voice to listen to. Secondly, none of us responds well to orders, and thirdly, it puts the players off their game. This culture of over-coaching and too much “input” from the sidelines actually thwarts the decision-making ability of young players, which is a very important part of their development if they are to make it to the higher levels of the game.

5. Rolling substitutions and equal playing time even for smaller players.
All players should have a right to equal playing time as youngsters. The competitive league football will come soon enough (probably best from 12 years old or later). Equal playing time engenders a better team atmosphere, gives all kids a fair chance and benefits both weaker and stronger players.

6. Late specialization. Allow players to play in multiple positions up to 14 years of age. Most small-sided games,  including FUNiño, FORMino and  5/7/8-a-side  ensure  a natural rotation of players and fluid roles in the game, and also include many transitions from attack to defence, thus giving ample opportunity to learn all aspects of the game. This will develop more rounded players who are all comfortable on the ball and can defend, attack and keep possession as well as show creative flair when it is required.


The Horst Wein model has been proven, refined and expanded over the last 30 years with the feedback of over 12,000 coaches globally. It has been the official model in Spain for more than 20 years and is rapidly growing  around the world, especially in countries like Germany and Italy and in South America.

Next week we will look at the importance of a player centred approach in youth development.

For more information check out www.thebeautifulgame.ie or email dermot@thebeautifulgame.ie


By Horst Wein and Dermot Dalton

Today we begin Part 1 of a 9 week series on optimal youth development. We hope this checklist provides you with plenty of food for thought

Part 1 – THE PLAN
In order to ensure optimal development for kids, you must have a detailed or comprehensive plan or model to achieve your goals.

Constructing a development model requires that you:

1)    Decide upon a style of play you want to achieve with the kids. Modern football, as played by Spain, Barcelona and other progressive teams is based around constructive possession play – The Beautiful Game. Many institutions (organizations, schools and clubs) are now buying into this beautiful style of playing football.

2)    Use the Game Intelligence Approach to coaching football at all levels. Optimal development for modern football depends not only on physical, technical and tactical elements, but more importantly on deeper understanding and reading of the game and better decision making! Game intelligence consists of 4 phases which must be trained from the earliest ages – perception, understanding, decision making and execution. FUNiño, The Beautiful Game for Kids as the first building block in an optimal development model, ensures that football starts in the head and finishes with the feet, not the other way around.

Significant progress only occurs in football when
motor learning is combined with cognitive learning!”

Horst Wein

3)    Construct logical, progressive, age-appropriate stages of development to achieve the ultimate goal over a given period of time. This applies to the competitions that the children play as well as their training.

4)    Use a comprehensive training curriculum to cover all aspects of the game for each developmental stage in training. Each training module must relate directly to the age-appropriate competition game they play!

5)    Integrate all aspects of play (cognitive, tactical, technical and physical). In modern football, you must use training time efficiently and also ensure that what the children are learning directly related to the game. This is best achieved by a game-oriented programme in training  rather than isolating the individual elements as in normally the case using drills. The Game must literally be the teacher, this ensures:

  • Greater understanding of the game of football and ability to “read” the game and make good decisions. (Game Intelligence!)
  • Greater transfer of skills into the real game.
  • An all-round development of players.
  • Greater efficiency as the physical and technical elements are catered for as well as the tactical and cognitive.

 “Traditional coaching had been entirely teacher-directed and largely
technique-orientated, whilst today emphasis is directed on
tactical problem solving through games play”      

  Lynne Spackmann

6)    Make sure that training is enjoyable. Put simply, games are more fun than drills and physical exercises and naturally more motivating for young players!

7)    Have patience!  Coaches, and parents in particular, must allow their children sufficient time to master each step along the long way to becoming a mature happy human being as well as a good footballer.

“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

The Horst Wein model has been proven, refined and expanded over the last 30 years with the feedback of over 12,000 coaches globally. It has been the official model in Spain for more than 20 years and is rapidly growing  around the world, especially in countries like Germany and Italy and in South America.

Next week we will compare a development philosophy versus winning at all costs and the implications for youth development. In subsequent weeks we will look in more detail at other important factors for optimal development.
For more information email dermot@thebeautifulgame.ie

Horst Wein on How To Develop The Best Youth Soccer Players

Horst Wein master coach

Interview with Dianne Scavuzzo of soccernation.com

Feb 11, 2013

Youth Soccer News: Legendary Coaching Mentor Horst Wein on Improving Youth Soccer Development in America

“When you do what you have done always, you will never reach any further” – Horst Wein.


Considered a coach for the world’s best coaches, Horst Wein has consulted for FC Barcelona, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Sunderland, Leeds United, Atletico Bilbao, Villareal, Real Sociedad, Bayer Leverkusen, VFB Stuttgart, Schalke 04, Mainz 04, St Pauli, TSG Hoffenheim, Deportiva Cali, Peñarol Montevideo, Pumas, C.America, Nacional Montevideo, Universidad Católica, Liga Univers, FC Adelaide and FC Kenkre.

Wein has also worked with the National Federations of England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Australia, India and Singapore. It might have been easier if I listed the Federations Horst has not helped.

Player centered approach to coaching youth soccer that puts the child first … Keeping it FUN and allowing a guided discovery approach for real player development … Launching a renaissance of street football – these are all more than buzz words for Wein.

Horst Wein is one of the foremost mentors of top coaches in the world, having worked in over 50 countries around the world. In the last 25 years he has mentored or influenced over 11,000 soccer coaches, focusing on presenting an age-appropriate, progressive training program for young players. Wein has also held coaching assignments in five Olympic sports, been a lecturer at numerous institutions and football federations, and was Director of the Sports Department of the Organizing Committee of the XX Olympiad.

Wein is the author of 34 sports books. Developing Youth Football Players, has sold more than 100,000 copies and has been selected as the official textbook of both the Spanish Football Federation and the Football Federation of Australia.

As an outspoken advocate of a more child-centered approach to soccer, Wein has spoken widely of “game intelligence” and the need for major changes in youth soccer. “It is not sufficient to teach your players well,” he has said, “it’s essential for future successes to prepare them better than others.”

Wein shares this passion for youth player development and tells us what he believes is necessary to prepare youth soccer players to succeed.

Diane Scavuzzo: What is wrong with American youth soccer?

Horst Wein: One of the problems in American youth soccer is our young players are not playing small-sided games. Small sided games should be played that correlate with their abilities. This would solve many problems the American youth is facing nowadays.

There are many other problems, including the over use of exercises, a lack of variety in drills and training as well as the the issue that players are not made to feel competent in training and during games at each stage of development.

Most of these problems are not even yet considered. The introduction of 3v3 football for the younger players under 10 would become a great starting point for American Soccer.

Diane Scavuzzo: Why does American youth soccer have these problems? Is it the size of the country? The youth clubs turning soccer into a business? A lack of leadership?

Horst Wein: The size of the country or the pool of players is not the most important factor. However, with over 24 million people playing soccer in America, it is time that this very highly developed country produces players who are capable of competing with the best in the world on the highest level.

Youth football in the U.S. is by far too competitive and this is no doubt a big contributing factor in holding back development in America.

It is causing more premature drop-outs from the game than in any other country, as its structure is not child-like. Children are forced to play like adults. Their vital needs are not respected at all.

While many youth clubs or academies are run professionally in America, this in itself does not solve a major issue. It is what program these academies use to train the children.

Soccer is not made “a la medida del niño” (to the measure of the child) in the USA; it is a miniature game of adult soccer.

Diane Scavuzzo: Why has this happened? Have Coaches lacked the proper training?

Is the problem the American soccer culture which grew up on fast foods and immediate success in other sports?

Horst Wein: America is a relatively new soccer country.

But even with countries with more than 100 years of tradition there is a huge need to educate coaches and parents on a new, more holistic and game-intelligent approach to developing young football players.

The most important human muscle has been forgotten completely. In the future, Americans have to consider soccer more a game of knowledge – a cognitive game instead of a physical game!

There may be unique pressures in American soccer as many parents see sports scholarships as a ticket to future success and a way of saving vast sums of money on college fees.

Also there can be an over-emphasis on athleticism, strength and speed.

In the modern game of football these talents have become less important, being replaced by greater skill and especially by game intelligence.

It is critical to consider the brain as the greatest power on the soccer field. One kg of muscle weight counts less than 1 mg of brain tissue.

If the natural competitiveness, athleticism, and creativity of American kids were harnessed in a more optimal development model, then America would truly arrive on the world stage of soccer in 15 years.

Diane Scavuzzo: Can you tell me who you think does a great job of player development?

Horst Wein: Any coach who realizes the need for an age-appropriate, player-centered model of development will make a significant contribution to the young soccer player.

Many people involved in youth soccer in America have realized the importance of small-sided games, but it has to be assured that these simplified soccer games are used appropriately.

Without an optimal development model and appropriate youth competitions actually in force, the youth football structure in America does not help. Instead it can do more harm to the young players.

The proof of this is America’s youth soccer drop-out rate, which is the highest (in percentage) in the world.

Why? Young people don’t feel capable of playing a game which is not designed for their physical and mental capacities.

The introduction of 3v3 football for the younger players under 10 would be a great starting point for American Soccer, as everybody discovers after a few months the many benefits of playing the FUNiño game. It would solve many problems the American youth is facing nowadays, such as obesity and need for exercise and to be with friends. There is a chapter on the many benefits in my digital book at www.thebeautifulgame.ie. Your readers may also download a list of 100 benefits from working with my model.

Diane Scavuzzo: What specifically could we adapt and modify?

Horst Wein: America could use an optimal development model, such as my Spanish Youth Football Development Model which has been in force for 27 years.

This model for youth player development includes:

A. Structure (Competitions)

Non-competitive (no leagues) until 14 years of age

7-9 years of age FUNiño (3v3)

10 years of age 5v5 soccer

11-12 years of age 7v7 soccer

13 years of age 8v8 soccer

14+ years of age 11v11 soccer

B. Style (Coaching Style)

Player-centered rather than coach-centered

Guided-discovery rather than instruction

C. Substance (Curriculum)

Game Intelligence for all ages

Games-oriented training rather than drills

Simplified games in training to correlate with the competitive games for each age group.

Diane Scavuzzo: How can American parents improve soccer player development in the USA? What can parents do better?

Horst Wein: Parents need to realize that young people have enough pressures on them in life and need to be able to experience the game of soccer football without interference from adults.

Diane Scavuzzo: Do you have a favorite team to watch?

Horst Wein: I enjoy watching teams that play with the ball and not against it, that play constructively and contribute to the beautiful game. Teams that play in such a way exhibit Game Intelligence as well as creativity and individual flair.

Diane Scavuzzo: What has been your greatest challenge?

Horst Wein FUNinoHorst Wein: My greatest challenge has been to convince all people in soccer around the world that the game of football for children should be like their shoes – it should fit them perfectly.Most adults are impatient to have children play the adult game of 11v11 instead of allowing them to follow a natural course of development and enjoyment of the game. The best players will come from such a natural structure.

My particular mission for almost 30 years now has been to create a model of development which will allow all young players the chance to reach their full potential in the game of soccer, whatever that may be. I believe that I have created a model that will not only give each child a chance to develop optimally, but one that is also fair to everyone so that no talent goes to waste and everyone involved in the game has a positive contribution to make.

The Beautiful Game is not just about winning.

It is about using soccer as an important tool to form the character of the young person, to transmit important life skills and to develop future citizens. This unfortunately doesn’t happen when young people are forced to play a kind of soccer for which they are not yet ready. They are forced to play the too-complex and too-difficult game as adults, but they are unable to understand it and solve the problems which have to be resolved.

All over the world kids are forced to play as adults, but 20-30 years ago they played on the street like kids. So it’s time to return to nature (as the great philospher Jean Jacques Rousseau said) to benefit everyone and to develop valuable citizens.

All over the world young people play soccer focused on a centralized goal. This way their perception skills are getting diminished, and with time they obtain a “tunnel vision” which is detrimental for high performance soccer. That is why I recently have re-launched my unique mini-soccer program which is played with four goals and 3 players per team. This new program called FUNiño is considered in Germany and Spain as “The Renaissance of Street Football.”

On October 31, Arrigo Sacchi, director of Italian Soccer, recommend that all clubs in the Serie A offer this game and its 32 variations for the kids under 10. Today it’s starting to conquer the world – Germany, Italy and Spain have used it for many years. The coach of Xavi Hernandez told me that he used it with Xavi some 24 years ago.

We call FUNiño “The Beautiful Game for kids,” as it is designed specifically for children under 10 years of age. We believe it will make a major global contribution to youth football development. FUNiño can cause a major breakthrough in the thinking of youth football coaches and introduce a more player-centered, age-appropriate style of coaching.

Diane Scavuzzo: What are yout thoughts on Jurgen Klinsmann…

Horst Wein: Jurgen Klinsmann is a bright coach who told us that soccer is one of the less developed and investigated sports …. Klinsmann has my book DEVELOPING GAME INTELLIGENCE IN SOCCER.

Diane Scavuzzo: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with our readers.

Stress is the enemy of creativity

To play football at a high level demands that players are comfortable on the ball and that they take responsibility to keep possession, but also express creativity at the right time and in the right place. In the adult game, more discipline is required, but as young players are developing, they need the freedom to experiment and learn from their mistakes. Unfortunaltely this freedom is seldom allowed them.

Playing games that are not age-appropriate
Young players need a game of their own to play, not the adult 11-a-side game or even 7v7 at the wrong age. Being forced into the wrong competition games for their age-group creates many problems for young players:

  • Players experience more failure than success as the game is too complex for them.
  • Making more mistakes brings more criticism from coach, fellow players and parents.
  • Because the game is so complex and mistake-ridden, coaches and parents are inclined to give even more instruction as well as criticism.
  • Bigger pitches demand more running, sometimes anaerobic which is detrimental at this age.
  • Usually only the bigger stronger players have time on the ball, and smaller players tend to be spectators which is very frustrating for them.
  • Not getting enough time on the ball is frustrating for players.
  • The rules tend to frustrate young players, especially things like foul throw-ins etc.

Consequences of winning at all costs
When the result is all that matters:

  • Coaches often try to enforce a very limited style of play
  • Players feel under intense pressure to win, fearing the consequences (usually criticism and reproach from the coach for not trying hard enough).
  • Players are less likely to try anything considered “risky”, since it might affect the result and the coaches temperament.
  • Players sometimes will not take responsibility on the ball as they fear the consequences. This is detrimental to constructive, possession play (especially when it comes to playing the ball out from the back). Often players learn to play against the ball rather than with it, kicking long away from danger and “getting rid of it” as they are encouraged by the adults.

No freedom to make their own decisions, only obey coaches
Many adults still hang on to a different age when children were to “be seen and not heard.”

  • Players often freeze as they cannot make a decision for themselves.
  • Confusion often reigns when different coaches give conflicting advice.
  • Multiple instructions from coaches and parents also confuse players.
  • Some coaches (and parents) feel they are not really coaching unless they instruct.
  • Need for a culture change where players participate more fully.

Adult expectations hinder expression

  • Most parents think their kid is the next big thing. (No pressure there!)
  • Adults, whether coaches or “spectating” parents often exhibit  “Jeckyll and Hyde syndrome” when the whistle is blown.
  • Coaches fear  embarrassment if they lose games and impart this stress to the players.
  • Club expectations may be for more silverware.
  • Adults take the game too seriously, as if it was professional, living out their own dreams.

Worrying about their place in the team

  • If coaches don’t play equal playing time, players may worry about their game time.
  • Parent’s also put extra pressure on everyone if they feel their child is not getting a fair amount of time on the pitch (though they are often correct in this assumption).

Stresses during training

  • Young players are expected to be “seen and not heard” as in previous eras.
  • Over-coaching the young players is detrimental to their development
  • Too many boring drills, not enough time playing games is very frustrating for young players especially.
  • Little emphasis on fun, but rather on discipline and effort
  • Children with short attention spans are often asked to listen for long periods.
  • Very little interaction
  • Coaches often want to clone their players into one predetermined mould.

The diagram above represents two models of youth football development, the first (red) is the prevalent methodology in most countries today. The second (green) is an optimal development model, proposed by Horst Wein over the last three decades, which has been adopted in countries like Spain and at major clubs around Europe and beyond.

They compare (from the bottom up as such:

  1. Competition Games. The first model (red) is based on competitons of 7-a-side and 11-a-side football for players as young as 7 and 11 respectively. This is in contrast to an age appropriate game structure including 3v3, 5v5, 7v7 and 8v8 football before the players play 11-a-side at 14 years of age.
  2. Winning at all costs vs development. In the first model, players play competitive league football from the age of 7, in the second, players are offered trophy-free competition games, where the results are not as important as participating and learning the game.
  3. Training. In the first model training consists of drills, strength and running work primarily, in the second, the game of football itself is considered the teacher. This is delivered through age-appropriate Simplified Games which match the appropriate small-sided competition game that they play.
  4. Coaching style. In the first model the coaching style is the old traditional method of “yell and tell” where the coaches instructions dominate. In contrast the second model uses active learning methods, including Guided Discovery (effective questioning) which involves the young players more and helps to develop their Game Intelligence (perception, understanding, decision-making and execution).

When conformity rules, creativity, imagination and innovation suffer!

The Positional Attack – The Beginning of Constructive Play

As Euro 2012 drew to a climactic conclusion, something remarkable emerged from this tournament, finallly European football had awakened to the value of possession football. Even Italy, with their classical counterattacking style began to retain the ball and build constructively. In their quarter final game against England, they had 67% possession and even shaded the masters, Spain in the first half of the final.
What was very noticeable as the tournament wore on was that teams that resorted to the long-ball tactic, from the goalkeeper and defenders,  Ireland and England amongst others, had an early exit and thankfully the two teams who tried to keep the ball and play football reached the final. Ultimately, the masters emerged victorious, vindicating The Beautiful Game and constructive possession football, with their historic third consecutive major international trophy in 4 years.

The Positional Attack Online Book Now Available click here

In order to keep possession of the ball, their must be a culture of keeping the ball and playing patiently and constructively. Then there must be a specific training programme to achieve high levels of technical and tactical skill based around the fundamental principle of keeping the ball, controlling the game and playing constructive attacking football.

Great possession football must begin at the back, if the goalkeeper and defenders learn to be comfortable on the ball and to pass constructively, this sets the tempo for the rest of the team. Many restarts begin with the goalkeeper, and today keepers use their feet 6 times more than they did a few years ago.

Horst Wein has just released this new online book to help coaches teach The Positional Attack – playing out from the back:


Building play from the back – a coaching manual

  • Train your defenders to initiate attacking moves, safely and confidently
  • Help your back four and goalkeeper to become comfortable on the ball
  • Retain more possession especially from restarts

In the modern, game of football based on controlling the game through possession, the best teams  are capable of playing constructively  from the back. This allows them to enjoy more possession as the keeper and back four retain the ball rather than launch it high and long up-field where it has to be won again.

Horst Wein brings his unique Game Intelligence approach to coaching The Positional Attack including Simplified Games and guided discovery questions that will help your players to learn, understand, practice and master this critical aspect of constructive possession football.

The Positional Attack Online Book Now Available click here




  • An introduction to The Game Intelligence approach to coaching
  • 9 progressive simplified games with 29 variations to coach The Positional Attack
  • Guided Discovery questions for deeper understanding and better retention
  • Tactical Rules for The Positional Attack
  • Intelligent passing

Click on the image below to find out more...

Spain Euro 2012 Win Sees The Beautiful Game Come Of Age


As Spain enter the history books as the first team in the modern game to win three major titles in a row, they are not the only winners, The Beautiful Game of football – played with composed possession, constructive play and exciting penetrating attacks, where players play more with the ball than against it – is the ultimate winner!

In a wonderful spectacle of football at its very best, Spain ran out 4:0 winners, although Italy were, no doubt unlucky to lose a man to injury. The highest compliment that could be paid to the style of football, so prevalent in Spain and most especially at FC Barcelona, was that Italy chose to imitate this wonderful passing game and with great success, reaching the final in convincing form. Before the final, Spain enjoyed 66.8% average possession in all their previous games and Italy had 53.2%. Spain made 3,417 completed passes compared to 1,530 by their opponents in the five previous matches. Many complained that Spain were a little boring, not scoring many goals, but they certainly saved their best to last with their play in the final.

With any luck, a global transformation of how football is played will begin from this moment, and young children around the world, especially smaller creative players, will be given the chance to contribute their creativity and imagination and to reach their full potential…sorry was dreaming there for a moment!

In an ideal world, other countries would take note of what Spain has just achieved and how they went about it.

FUTBOL A LA MEDIDA DEL NINOThe current Spanish development system was put in place as far back as 1993 using Horst Wein’s Youth Football Development Model, the first age-appropriate model of its kind.Not only has the national team benefitted, but Spanish clubs have come to the fore in European football, despite the money being spent on players in the English Premiership. Barcelona have won 3 Champions League titles in the space of 6 years, whilst also reaching two other semifinals. Athletic Bilbao, on the way to the final of this years Europa showed us what can be achieved using local players who have grown up on an optimal development model, where creativity and love for the ball are encouraged.

Horst WeinHorst Wein originally got into football coaching through his work with FC Barcelona in 1985. He was then the Spanish national Hockey Coach and was invited by Carles Reixach (who would later become Assistant Manager to Johan Cruyff) to demonstrate his unique coaching methods. The club were so impressed that they advised him to switch over to football coaching immediately and his football coaching career took off rapidly from there.


Horst Wein, after 27 years travelling around the globe, introducing the model to over 11,000 coaches has seen much resistance to change and innovation for all sorts of reasons, but surely there can be no argument that if you want to develop young players to their full potential, to play the beautiful game at its’ best and ultimately to produce sustained success at the highest competitive level, then an investment in an age-appropriate youth development model like Spain’s, is a must!

HORST WEIN FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT MODELThe model has three main elements:

Structure (The competitions the children play)
Horst says that “the game children play must fit them like their shoes.” Until young players reach about 14 years of age,the adult game is too complex and physically beyond their capability. He recommends 3v3 (with four goals, now called for 7-9 year olds, 5-a-side for 10 year olds, 7-a-side for 11 and 12 year olds, and 8-a-side for 13 year olds. Young children do not need to play in competitive leagues when they are younger, as recommended by the long-term athlete development model of Istvan Balyi and accepted by most football federations around the world.

Style (The coaches approach)
The modern coach has moved away from the traditional model, where the coach is the final and ultimate authority and the players just listen to his instructions. A more player-centred approach includes guided discovery questioning to help players gain a deeper knowledge of the game and greater retention.

Substance (The curriculum)
Just like their weekend games, a progressive curriculum of age-appropriate training games forms the backbone of the learning experience for young players. Rather than the traditional approach of drills and an emphasis on physical conditioning, young players are stimulated through a variety of teaching games using a more global approach. These small-sided, simplified games are key to more effective learning.

The Development Model and Horst’s subsequent work for the adult game is pervaded by The Game Intelligence approach to football, as he himself says:

“The Beautiful Game is football that starts in the head and finishes with the feet.”

Horst has pioneered Game Intelligence in football for over a decade now and recognizes this intelligence in the play of Spain and FC Barcelona, especially in players like Xavi and Iniesta.

Game intelligence in soccerGame intelligence involves Perception, Understanding, Decision-making and finally, technical Execution. The best players seem to have plenty of time on the ball, they read the game well and make very good decisions, they rarely give the ball away. But this must be taught from an early age, using simplified games and guided discovery methods in an environment that is player-centred. Players must be given the opportunity to think for themselves and become good decision-makers. This requries a radical rethink of traditional coaching methods.


The Game Intelligence Approach is designed to stimulate players so they can reach their full potential, to raise the level of play and to invest in long term, sustainable success, all of which have been witnessed in the steady march of Spanish football over the last two decades. When you combine their two European Cups and World Cup win with that of their underage teams from U16 upwards, Spain has won more titles in the last 18 years than its two nearest rivals, France and Italy put together!

The first part of the Horst Wein Youth Development model  for 7-9 year olds  features his famous 3v3 on four goals format it is now called:

Click on the image below to find out more:


Mini Football gets a makeover – introducing…

Horst Wein’s ground-breaking development game Mini Football has been around for a long time now. The basic game of 3v3 with 4 goals has stood the test of time as a quantum leap in youth football development, being used in training for some of the top clubs in the world.

Having four wide goals immediately introduces width and helps to prevent the familiar swarming at the younger age groups. Also having two goals to attack with three defenders means that one goal is usually less-defended, which means there is always a better option available. Both of these factors encourage young players to look before they act and to think before they execute – so game intelligence is introduced naturally from the earliest ages.

However, now in 2012,  Mini Football has grown from a handful of games using the basic set-up to a complete programme which includes 28 official games with 35 variations, and also 24 preparatory/corrective games. As we are about to launch this new programme of development for 7-9 year olds, we figured a new name to reflect better its standing in world football development was necessary and we are delighted to announce this whole new programme – introducing…

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids


The Beautiful Game for Kids


As you may have figured out  FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids is the abbreviated version of Futbol a la medida del Nino, “football designed for children.”

We believe that young children all round the world with a passion for football have been waiting for over 150 years, since the inception of the game, for a game that suits perfectly, their mental and physical requirements and their specific needs as children, summed up in one word – FUN. If Nature were to design a football game, much like Street Football of old, it would come up with FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids – the first age-appropriate game programme specifically designed to meet the needs of young players, boys and girls, under 10 years of age. We hope that this holistic, game-centred approach will give millions of children around the world the most positive start to a lifetime of enjoying, as kids, The Beautiful Game, just as do the best players in the world!

The programme is the result of 27 years of innovation, practice and continuing  improvement and is part of the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model, which is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation since 1993 and is used by FC Barcelona,  Athletico Bilbao and many top clubs around the world.

This unique modern coaching programme includes:

  • A player-centred approach to coaching, where the child comes first.
  • A game-centred approach, for optimal, holistic learning. (No more lines, laps and lectures). All aspects of the game: technical, physical, tactical and game intelligence are developed in an integrated manner for greater transfer and effect.
  • A Guided-Discovery approach to learning, where the coach stimulates the players’ game intelligence through effective questioning.

The programme is designed for all ability levels, but encourages inclusivity.

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids has many advantages over other small sided games especially 4v4 and 7v7. Horst’s unique use of simplified games that are appropriate to each age group, both for their competitions and their training, makes this programme far superior to the traditional offerings for youth development in football. In total, counting the 28 official games, their 35 variations and the 24 preparatory games the complete programme effectively includes 87 games to keep both coaches and their players stimulated throughout, while also covering all the important aspects of the game for this developmental stage.

The Game is the Teacher!

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids (along with the other elements of the Developmnent Model) has been proven to nurture intelligent, creative players, as witnessed by the emergence of the home-grown talent on display, recently  in the Europa Cup by Athletico Bilbao. In 2011 three young Mexican boys who  played this game went on the win the U17 World Cup.

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids is destined to become the number 1 development  game for young players of  this age around the world in the coming years.

FUNINO BOYS– Give your young players the chance to discover the magic  of The Beautiful Game in a unique game programme designed especially for them

– Enjoy the “renaissance of street football”

– Be the best coach you can be, creating a player- centred environment where young talent flourishes.

– Introduce your players to game intelligence, and establish their technique through games not drills

– A complete easy-to-use manual to unlock the enormous creative potential of young children…

Everything needed for coaches and players to get started on the right road to a great future in football:

FUNINO PITCH28 official FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids  games (With 35 variations)

24 Preparatory/corrective games

Over 40 colour illustrations

Easy to read and implement

A season programme of competitions

Games and tests your players will love

A clear guide to coaching this age

The Benefits of FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids abridged…

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids 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 improve at
  • 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 the 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 everyone
  • 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
  • Everyone usually scores a goal!
  • Rolling substitutions and equal playing time benefits everyone
  • Frequent repetition of basic game situations gives greater opportunity to master them
  • The two goals create options which stimulates 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 isolation or separation of technical, tactical or physical elements.

 More goals, more action, more FUN!

Lifestyle and character benefits:

  • Active Lifestyle – combats the impact of sedentary lifestyle and obesity
  • Confidence/Self Esteem – through more successful actions and positive environment
  • Endeavour/Perseverance – learn to never give up
  • The Ability to Think – invaluable for education and life
  • Emotional Control – contentment and satisfaction through play
  • Social Relations/Friendships/Teamwork – 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.         


FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids  will very soon be available as an online book, see sample pages below:

FUNino sample pages

FUNino more sample pages

see contents below:

FUNino ContentsFurther information about FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids  will be available shortly…



Mini Football – A Breakthrough in Youth Football Development

When Horst Wein introduced his very own unique small sided game for 7 to 9 year old players 27 years ago,  the stage was set for a revolution in Youth Football.

And in 1994 The Royal Spanish Football Federation published his age-oriented Youth Football Development Model, with Mini Football as the first building block in a gradual, progressive system of development, making it available to all Spanish clubs and youth academies. As we all know Spanish football has gone on to become the leading force in world football. They are the current World Cup and European Cup holders, and from U16 to senior football level have won more titles in the last 16 years than their two nearest rivals put together,  while FC Barcelona have won 3 Champions Leagues in the last 5 years.

Mini Football, as the first game in the development model, is considered to be the revival of Street Football, but is played 3v3  with 4 goals instead of the traditional 2 goals and has many more benefits than 4v4 or 7v7 football. Today, the original game has been proven, expanded and extended to form a complete programme that is specifically suited to young players starting out in the game and includes all the best practices of modern coaching.

 A complete programme manual for Mini Football is to be released in mid-March as an ebook…

The Joy of Mini FootballGive your young players the chance to discover the magic of The Beautiful Game in a unique game programme designed especially for them.

Experience the “renaissance of street football” in the  21st century. 

Be the best coach you can be while creating a player-centred environment where young talent flourishes.

Introduce your players to game intelligence while establishing  their technique, in a player-centred, game-oriented programme.

Coaches and parents can soon learn to unlock the enormous creative potential of the young talents in their care.


Everything you need to get started on the right road for a great future in football including:

Mini Football with 4 goals28 official mini football games (With 35 variations)

24 Preparatory/corrective games

Easy to read and implement

Over 40 colour illustrations

Season programme of competitions

Games and tests your players will love

A clear guide to coaching this age

 With more than 20 player benefits


See Mini Football in action with these short clips:



Mini Football is superior to both 4v4 and 7v7 football for this age-group:

Why Mini Football and not 4v4 games?

Mini Football vs 4v4Why Mini Football and not 7-a-side football?

A comparison of two competitions for 7 to 9 year old players

Mini Football vs 7v7More information concerning this fantastic resource and how to purchase it will soon be available here at The Beautiful Game…