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.



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!

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!

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…



The Need For An Optimal Youth Football Development Model

The game of football is one of the greatest gifts to humankind and is played by millions all over the world. Football in it’s current form has been with us for around 150 years now, but the evolution of player development, in most countries, has not kept pace with, the game itself, or many other aspects of life. A new player-centred model for development is necessary to achieve optimal results for all young children who play the game – that will enable them to reach their full potential.

The game of football has moved on, at least in some quarters, to a very high playing level, where game intelligence, allied to superior technique has seen The Beautiful Game reach it’s Zenith. The football of FC Barcelona (and indeed the Spanish National team) has brought unrivalled success as well as entertaining millions with style, creativity, excitement and beauty. Any new model of value must strive to achieve not only such great sporting goals, but the lifestyle values espoused by this  inspirational club. Even the Japanese ladies national team has proven that The Beautiful Game can win out against the biggest, strongest and toughest players in the world.

Football is a late specialization sport meaning that players cannot be just manufactured or cloned from the very first day. Firstly, they must be allowed time to develop the fundamental ABCs of agility, balance and coordination, then be exposed to a progressive programme of age-appropriate learning and then in their mid-teens be prepared for competition. A good model respects the natural order of childhood development, taking the time to help them reach their full potential and to complete each logical stage of development in turn.

The game of football, especially when played constructively is a very complex game for both the coach and the players. There are many decisions to be made, and many complex actions to be performed. The 11-a-side game that adults play is far too complex and difficult for young players, physically, mentally, technically, tactically and psychologically.

While football coaching has gone through many fashions especially the physical and technical emphases, today, game intelligence –  a proper understanding of the workings of the game, where players use perception, understanding and decision-making before finally executing the chosen action – is the key factor in both player performance and team efficiency, i.e. Success!

The great Istvan Balyi is often quoted for his 10,000 hour rule – the time required for a talent to be fully developed – but just as important, if not more so, is the quality of the content, or curriculum in any such development programme, and critically, that the young talent remains motivated to complete such an epic task.


Horst Wein developed his Youth Football Development Model over 25 years ago, the first ever, age-appropriate, programme for training  young footballers. Since then it has been refined, expanded and updated to include the most valuable current trends in coaching. The model takes into account all the critical considerations mentioned above and includes its own unique features and associated advantages.

 Goals of the model:

In order to put any plan into place it is important to determine where you want to go.The Football Development Model is designed to achieve the following long-term goals:

  1. To develop each boy or girl to their full potential.
  2. To develop complete, all-round football players.
  3. To develop players who can play football with their head as well as their feet.
  4. To develop better human beings.
  5. To give the kids a game for life
  6. To further the cause of The Beautiful Game – constructive, creative, exciting football

As well as these long-term goals, coaches need clearer direction on what exactly to expect for each age-group. There is an over-emphasis on technique and physical conditioning in the game today, especially for young players, and creativity and game intelligence is often neglected or even frowned upon. This model is also based on the precept that good football starts in head before finishing with the feet.

A blueprint for success

In order to reach these goals, a map, or blueprint is provided:

a)      Style

The style of the coaching in the model is player-centred and includes a guided discovery teaching method versus the old traditional style of “yell and tell.” Players are included in the learning process and are helped to think for themselves.

b)      Substance

The Football Development Model is based around a progressive curriculum of simplified small-sided games in training rather than drills. A holistic game-centred approach ensures the integration of technical, physical and tactical elements that is proven to be much more effective than the old analytical method.

The Game is the Teacher!

c)       Structure

The model recommends age-appropriate game formats for competitions:


5v5 for 10 years

7v7 for 11-12 years

8v8 for 13 years

11-a-side for 14+ years

Advantages of the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model

Age-appropriate games and training are matched to the children’s needs

Firstly, we must recognize that children are not adults and that the 11-a-side game is a complex, adult-oriented game for grown men and women, who have reached physical, mental and emotional maturity. On top of that children grow through different phases of development, physically, mentally and emotionally.

A comprehensive curriculum leaves nothing to chance

The model provides all the elements for the development of players, much like a school curriculum which becomes progressively more complex and intense. We would not ask a junior infant to sit his Leaving Certificate examination, he would not be prepared in any way, mentally or emotionally. Neither does the model place excessive demands on young players, but provides them with all the tools necessary to advance in the game.

 A step by step process guarantees competence and success

The game is a complex game and it is vital that the foundational building blocks are in place and that progression is made in a logical, step-by-step manner. This helps the coaches to grow progressively in their competence, just as the players do.

Player’s need to feel competent to retain their interest in anything and especially so in sport, which is  optional for many of them. A model which proceeds in a step-by-step manner allows the children the time to achieve a good level of competence in their technique and tactical awareness for their particular age-group and the coach will only move them on when they are ready to be challenged further, without being overstretched.

A holistic approach develops the whole player

The Horst Wein model includes the technical, tactical, physical and psychological/emotional elements of player development in an integrated manner so that skills are acquired in the context of the game, and the game itself is played in the context of a fully-rounded life.

 Fun and enjoyment guarantee involvement and retention

Any model which ignores the inherent enjoyment of playing games over the felt requirement to perfect technique and physical conditioning will be counterproductive. Children must firstly, fall in love with the game in the Fundamental stage, but even in professional football, players need to be enjoying the game to sustain consistent performance. All over the world young people in their millions are been lost to sport in their early teens due to the pressures imposed on them by adults, rather than enjoying sport for itself.

Time allowed for natural development helps them reach their full potential

Most kids these days, even as young as 7 years of age are forced into “performing” each weekend as if it were the Champions League Final. For some reason adults have seen fit to force young players into game formats that they are not ready for. Children as young as 11 years of age play the 11-a-side game and the 7-a-side game is applied to the 7 year olds. A prepubescent 11 year old boy, on average, weighs about 6 stone and is about 4ft 10inches tall. The goal posts in the full game are 8ft tall and 24ft wide, the pitch is about 100 by 80 yards…something is amiss here! It takes time for kids to reach their full potential, after which many will just continue with a very healthy leisure pasttime for life, while some may go on to play at the highest levels, as fully-rounded,  complete footballers, with great game intelligence, technical ability and creativity, but also as completely rounded and generous human beings.

The Football Development Model recognizes the time that nature decrees for the development of these young footballers.

 “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


Horst Wein recommends Small-Sided Games for Grassroots Football

Horst Wein Coach of CoachesHorst Wein, who has mentored more than 11,000 soccer coaches in 55 different countries around the world, believes that small sided games are the most essential element in developing youth soccer players. This comes from a man who knows a thing or two about this vital topic – his book “Developing Youth Football Players” is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation, and has also been adopted by the Football Federation of Australia, having sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide.

 Small-sided games in Training

Coaches should focus more on games rather than drills in training.  Isolating particular techniques and concentrating on them using repetitive drills and exercises is known as the “analytical method” and often poses difficulties when the players come to apply what they have been working on in the real game scenario. The “global method” of training involves creating more game-like scenarios in training that can be more seamlessly integrated into the actual game itself. This is done through creating simplified games, which are scaled-down versions of the real game, but that can focus on particular themes necessary in the real game.

The concept of using games rather than drills and exercises has been studied for many years all around the world. Teaching Games for Understanding  (TGfU) has been applied to many different sports and been found to be very effective. In Australia, it is also known as “Game Sense” and “Play practice.”

There are many benefits to this games-oriented method in soccer:

  1. Most importantly, players  prefer to play games than to do drills (especially the younger ones).
  2. The games can be modified through different variables to concentrate more on specific elements that need to be addressed; The size of the playing area, the number of players, duration of the game, technical rules etc, means that in the hands of a skilful coach, games may be used to achieve all the requirements of playing the real game.
  3. Small-sided games require smaller pitches and can be suited to any number of players.
  4. Small sided games provide a much more intense physical workout than larger games.
  5. Small-sided games allow the coach to develop the players Game Intelligence, as they may focus on the true dynamics of the game of soccer e.g. the 2v1 situation.

 Small sided games in competition

This means that the competitions that young people play should be tailored to the specific requirements of their age group.

“The competition you play should be like your shoes,  it should fit you perfectly! “

Benefits of small sided games in competition (and training)

  • More touches of the ball
  • Simpler decisions to make
  • Better game-related fitness, short duration of high-intensity vs laps
  • More time with coach per player
  • Easier to coach especially for parent coaches
  • More opportunities to solve game problems
  • More attacking opportunities (dribbling, shooting, passing )
  • More defending opportunities
  • More shooting and more goals  = more fun!
  • No hiding place, players don’t get lost in these games
  • More opportunities for the full range of skills
  • Encourages better shape and awareness of team-mates
  • Encourages faster play, fast transition from defence to attack
  • Easier for young players to have success – which means enjoyment and retention for these players.


Manchester United conducted a pilot scheme in 2005 which compared 4-a-side soccer to 8-a-side soccer, the results were very telling:




 Small-sided Games Around the World

All around the world today the value of small-sided games has begun to be recognized and many federations have introduced them successfully into youth development programmes. The Dutch system focuses mainly on 4v4 and later 7v7 games before players are introduced to the 11-a-side game.

All across continental Europe there are variations of either 4v4 or 5v5 for the first game that young kids play. In the British Isles, Wales has been leading the way with small sided games being introduced there in 1996. The FA in England are determined to introduce the following structures by 2013: 5v5 (7-8 years), 7v7 (9-10 years), 9v9 (11-12 years), 11v11 (13+ years)

Small sided games in the USThis map shows the penetration of small-sided games across the USA in 2009. Red areas have implemented small sided games, and blue areas have partially implemented them. In general USYS (United States Youth Soccer) recommends 3v3 for under 6 years and a progression to 4v4 or 5v5, 6v6 or 7v7, 8v8 etc.


Small-sided Games in the Horst Wein Model

In the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model, the recommended progressive small-sided game structure is:

Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model

3v3 for 7-9 years                         5v5 for 10 years                           7v7 for 11-12 years                       8v8 for 13 years                              11-a-side for 14+ years



Along with these competition games, each age group has its own complete programme of small-sided, simplified games for training, which emphasize game intelligence and a deeper understanding of the tactical situations of the game of football. The training games can be used for preparing the players for their appropriate competition or as corrective measures for issues identified during play.

The emphasis is always on games for learning rather than drills and running.

 The Game is the teacher


Many claim that the revolutionary game of Mini-Football (3v3 on four wide goals) is a revival of street football.






While many advocate the benefits of 4v4, which is undoubtedly far more beneficial than 8v8 (or 7v7), Horst’s own Mini-Football game which is 3v3 on 4 wide goals has the following advantages over 4v4:

Mini Football versus 4v4