Using music in sessions

Music contains the power to seize attention, raise morale, create emotion, alter mood, act as a reminder of previous memories, raise work rate, increase confidence, and promote rhythm to movement.  At Ministry of Football , the happy and uplifting dance music encourages more creativity, more enjoyment and more freedom. In this way it aims to re-create the atmosphere and environment of street football. It provides the players (and coaches!) with the motivation and inspiration to move, sway and deceive opponents.

Best of all the music means the children can get on with enjoying and experimenting without the interference of adults screaming instructions at them! This helps develop independent players who are not reliant on coaches to tell them what to do.

The music is very effectively used to puntuate teaching times. When the music is stopped, there is a sudden silence which captures the attention of the players. In this silence, the coach can work effectively - demonstrating, asking questions and suggesting alternatives. Once the coach is finished, the music is back on, and the players know it is their time to play and experiment again.

What type of music do we play? Anything high tempo, child-friendly and with happy lyrics! We have been working with various dance DJs to provide the MoF sessions with music that has a continual and uplifting beat.

Luke Hindes, Lead Coach at MoF for ten years, has completed his Sports Science study on the use of music to enhance enjoyment and performance in Football training. In this study, Luke monitored the heart-rate of participants in music and non-music sessions, and measured the perceived work-rate and enjoyment. He found that there was significantly higher perceived effort and significantly lower enjoyment in the non-music session. His main findings are:

Better skill acquisition. E.g. If attempting a new skill like the drag back turn, this new skill will be achieved and also used at the right time more rapidly under music conditions.

Concentration is high during the football to music sessions. Children are less distracted by others around them and less distracting to others therefore their behaviour is better.

Children are more creative. Instead of clearing the ball as far away from them as possible, they receive the ball with a positive first touch and are willing to attempt skills learned in sessions or their own individual skills, or use a creative pass.

More movement off the ball. Football is not all about what you can do on the ball, it’s about intelligent movement off the ball and the introduction of music seems to encourage that movement. Also the tempo of the games played are a lot faster - high tempo music will encourage a high tempo game.

To support and add to Luke's work, our experience of using music in the specific MoF context (indoor hall, learning through games, ages 5-11) has shown two interesting benefits:

  1. The music can be used as a teaching tool and help manage the teaching process. When the music is on and loud, the children know it is their time to play and explore the game. They find it tricky to hear instructions from parents who are far from the game action. They can get more 'lost' in their own world of play. The coach is able to quickly and effectively change the focus by suddenly turning the music down. In the silence, the children are suddenly attentive, and the coach has their immediate attention for a short, sharp intervention. Then it's music back on and the children can explore the game again. 
  2. We have found that low-level disruptive behaviour is much less of a problem in a music environment. When the music is playing the natural response from the children is to move and play. There is less opportunity to continue unproductive discussions which may include negative comments, teasing or criticism of others. Arguments between children don't gather pace in the music environment in the same way they might in the silent environment. This helps us provide places which are friendlier for children and where they are more able to get on with playing the game rather than worrying about who said what and how to respond.

Of course, the music also has one big drawback: Children can't hear each other as well during game play so verbal calls for the ball (or other instructions between the children) are harder to hear and respond to.

For other children's sport programmes that are keen to explore the use of music in sessions, one major piece of advice based on our experience: You must have a music system which you can quickly turn off and on again. It is of little use to just play loud music constantly throughout the experience - it makes teaching incredibly difficult. The value of the music is in the coach's ability to manage the volume and help create, manage and control the environment.

For more info and inspiration on the power of music to enhance performance visit AudioFuel.

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Mark Carter

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