Kicking with confidence
Are you looking for after school or holiday activities for your children? One possible solution is a unique child-centred programme run by the Football Association which not only teaches children technical footballing skills, but also builds their confidence by focusing on skills like team-building and communication.
The FA Tesco Skills programme was set up in 2007 and over three million children aged five to 11 have been on it so far. It aims to increase this number to 4.7 million by 2014.
It's a nationwide programme which is aimed at children of all abilities, including children with disabilities. It aims to engage both girls and boys and is constantly looking for more ways to encourage more girls to take part. The holiday scheme is free, while the after-school clubs cost around £1 for a one and a half hour session.
Funded by Tesco and Sport England, the programme also offers sessions in over 1,200 primary schools during school hours. These are designed to fit in with National Curriculum objectives and feedback shows 92% of teachers who take part feel more confident after working with the specially trained FA coaches.
Martin Preston is the programme's project manager and coordinates the 26 skills coaching teams across England. He says the programme is unique because it aims to develop children holistically. “A lot of evidence suggests children only reach their potential if they develop holistically,” he says. Traditional football programmes, he adds, focus on technical skills, but the FA Tesco Skills programme's four corner model aims to develop children's confidence, build self-esteem, teach team skills and improve their decision-making.
The four corner model is split into physical, technical, psychological and social elements. The physical corner is about technical skills, such as coordination and agility. The technical corner focuses on all the technical qualities young players need in football. The psychological corner focuses on decision-making abilities and children's attitude to football. And the social corner is about teamwork and communication. A coach might, for instance, ask children to set up how an area should be structured with cones. The coach doesn't tell the children what to do, but allows them to take ownership of the challenge, says Preston. “They have to make the decisions themselves,” he says, “but if they are struggling the coach will give them tips.” Teamwork is about encouraging children to respect each other, even the least confident children.
The coach, says Preston, will work one to one with children who need more support. “It's about helping children to develop skills for life,” he states, “and about understanding that sometimes a child might be affected by social and psychological factors which hold them back in football.”
He adds that the programme has had tremendous feedback from parents. Independent research shows an amazing 99-100% of parents felt the programme improved their children's social skills and sense of psychological well-being.
“Some parents say that their children have become visibly more confident after doing the programme,” says Preston.
The programme emphasises learning through fun as Preston says children learn better if they are enjoying themselves. The 106 full-time FA qualified coaches have been chosen not just for their technical expertise, but for their ability to engage children. They are trained to understand how children work at different rates and face different challenges. The coaches, who have enhanced CRB checks, get 20 days a year training and do a lot of peer observation. They are at least FA level 2 qualified and have taken the FA youth award, which focuses on creating the right environment for children, teaching practice and how to develop the individual child, including those who might have behavioural challenges. Most coaches stay in the job for a long time.
Preston says children often drop out of competitive football because they lose confidence. The programme is looking at whether children who follow the programme are more likely to continue in sport for longer. “There is quite a lot of evidence from parents and others that this is the case,” he says.
*The next free holiday sessions are taking place during the June half time holiday 6th to 8th June and then during the summer holidays 23rd July to 3rd August. Parents can find their nearest Skills Centre and book their child’s place at The FA.com/TescoSkills.