Our Coach Education group is set-up to share ideas and best practice among football coaches. We look forward to connecting with you.
Our free, easy-to-use tool helps young players improve in all areas of the game
How does it work?
Players answer a set of questions based on their experiences of playing football. Our tool analyses their results and suggests areas to work on. We then present a series of video-based learning tasks to improve in the selected area. Click on START above to begin.
The MoF Player Reflection Tool helps children to:
- Take ownership of their learning
- Learn to learn
- Develop their football skills
Learn from the best
The following footballers, athletes, experts and coaches feature in the Player Reflection Tool:
Footballers and futsal players
Abby Wambach, Adam Lallana, Alex Morgan, Alex Scott, Amandinha, Andrea Pirlo, Andres Iniesta, Becky Sauerbrunn, Bobby Charlton, Briana Scurry, Carli Lloyd, Carlos Alberto, Cesc Fabregas, Christine Sinclair, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Darren Fletcher, David Beckham, David Clarke, David Pizarro, David Silva, Dele Alli, Eric Abidal, Falcao, Fara Williams, Fran Kirby, Gareth Bale, Gary Linekar, Hakan Ziyech, Holger Badstuber, Ian Wright, Ivan Rakitic, Jack Rutter, Jesus Navas, Ji So-Yun, Jordi Alba, Julie Ertz, Laurent Koscielny, Leo Messi, Lucy Bronze, Maicon, Marta Viera da Silva, Mason Greenwood, Megan Rapinoe, Mia Hamm, Michael Carrick, Michael Laudrup, Miroslav Klose, Muhamud, Syaifullah, Nathan Redmond, Nemanja Vidic, N'Golo Kante, Patrick Aubameyang, Petr Cech, Rachel Yankey, Ricardinho, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Rose Lavelle, Ryan Giggs, Saki Kumagai, Sam Kerr, Sam Mewis, Santi Cazorla, Sergio Ramos, Steph Houghton, Steve Gerrard, Toni Duggan, Vincent Kompany, Virgil van Dijk, Vivianne Miedema, Xavi Hernandez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Football and futsal teams
US Women's national team, Barcelona futsal team, MoF Futsal Club, Japan Women's national team, Arsenal, Iran Women's futsal national team, North Carolina Tar Heels,
From other sports
Sir Ben Ainslie, Dan Carter, Derek Redmond, Dina Asher-Smith, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jonny Wilkinson, Laura Trott, Michael Jordan, Mo Farah, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Sir Steve Redgrave
Coaches and learning experts
Arsene Wenger, Carol Dweck, Daniel Coyle, Gareth Southgate, Glenn Hoddle, Emma Hayes, Ivan Joseph, John Wooden, Jurgen Klopp, Sir Ken Robinson, Pep Guardiola, Matthew Syed
Steph Houghton features in our section on Communication and Leadership
Quotes and reviews
- "Ahead of the game" - Bill Beswick, sports psychologist
- "A fantastic learning aid for youngsters" - Dan Abrahams, football psychologist
To report broken links, or suggest better or more content:
- Mark Carter
- 07772 716 876
- Email me via online form
I would be particularly keen to discuss the following ideas:
Developing a Self-Reflection Tool for Coaches, for Goalkeepers, for 12-16 and 17-21 year old players (position specific), for other sports, or for other areas of learning.
About the author
I am a consultant statistician, with specific expertise in statistical and data analysis and management on high-profile national programmes. Previous clients include Medical Research Council, Network Rail, Royal Mail and national education programmes.
I am a children's football coach with decades of experience of developing footballers in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and England. I have set-up and managed successful skill development programmes in all three countries. I have a passion for learning through play. Read more here.
The Player Reflection Tool - Background, purpose and context
Many of the children in the MoF programme have been with us for several years. Something that I have observed over these years is that children seem to make most progress with us in their first and second year compared to their third and fourth year. There are probably several reasons for this, but one of them I believe is that learners become comfortable with what they can do within a specific environment and their learning speed seems to halt. When a new child joins us - and everything is fresh and different - they have not yet set any boundaries on what is possible for them, and they learn quickly and erratically. But later, after two or three years, they have worked out how to cope in the environment and they seem less thoughtful and less challenged. They have reached what Joshua Foer calls an "OK Plateau".
An OK Plateau: We're happy with how good we've become at this, and we're happy to turn on auto-pilot - Joshua Foer
This idea of an OK Plateau for children learning football may be familiar with other coaches too I imagine. I quite often see coaches asking questions to groups in their football sessions. They say things like "What does this kind of movement create?" and all the kids answer "Space!". Yet, back in the practice session their movements are as they were before, and it is clear that the answer of "Space" is a learned, autonomous response to an over-used question. Sometimes I think that children are just going through the motions of the session, appearing to be learners, without actually seeing themselves as learners.
Above: Each page of content in the Player Reflection Tool focuses on one specific area and provides relevant and inspiring content and tasks.
I often think about the relationship between what the coach plans to teach in a session and what the children actually learn in a session. Coaches come to a session having planned everything the children will learn, and having considered in detail how we will teach it. Yet if you ask the kids when they are leaving the session "What did you learn today?", then most of them will look at you blankly. Of course, this does not mean that they haven't learnt anything. Often the things we learn are not easily described in words, especially not straight after the learning event. But I wonder how well the key things the children have learnt correlate to the learning outcomes that the coach had planned.
At Ministry of Football we believe in learning through play. It is a real challenge to keep all the children focussed on our learning outcomes while also giving them the freedom to play and make their own decisions. It is normal in all education in sport and at school for the teacher to choose a topic for a session. Learning is seen as something all the children do en masse, on the same topic, lead by the teacher. But do all the children really need to work on the same area?
As coaches, we rarely ask the children what they want to work on, or what part of their skills do they feel most need work. Perhaps it would be too challenging for the coach to have this kind of feedback. How would we manage and deliver a programme that was lead by the children?
The concept of the OK Plateau is just as relevent to the coach as it is to the learner. As coaches, we reach OK Plateau's where we are often happy to repeat familiar sessions, and stop challenging ourselves to be better and to try new things. We need to shake things up sometimes in order to challenge and test ourselves.
The Ministry of Football Player Reflection Tool will give children the chance to assess their own skills in football performance, practice and learning. It will help them develop goals for their future, and provide teaching and learning materials for them to help them reach their goals. In this way, we will allow children to take more ownership of their own learning, and empower them to become better learners (not just of football).
For coaches, we will no longer be deciding what to teach, and delivering the same session to all children. Instead we will be responsive to the chosen needs of the children, and will need to plan and deliver activities and interventions which are tailor made for the individual children we are responsible for. The idea of this is to take both teacher and learner off their OK Plateaus, and get them climbing mountains once again.
Diagram: The key drivers and concepts behind the Player Reflection Tool
1. Ownership of Learning
Learning is something very personal. It is different for everyone. It rarely happens by force, but can be hugely accelerated under the correct conditions. At Ministry of Football we believe that the essential condition for high-octane learning is that it is driven by the learner. Football sessions should not involve teachers dragging the learning out of the child. We want to create people who can love to learn, and who have the skills to learn for themselves. It is likely that we will produce a much wider variety of footballer (and person) if we hand the steering wheel over to the child and let them learn to lead the way.
2. Flipped Learning
Flipped learning is the idea that learners do homework before the session, and come to the session having researched the background of what they will learn, and practised some of the key points. A simple football example might be that children watch videos of various turns or moves, and practice two or three of these on their own in the week before a coached session. They then attend the session, and the coach works on how to use what they've learned in a game situation. The coach and the group don't waste session time doing the technical practice, they can get straight into the meat of the session.
3. The Internet as a Learning Resource for Football
A key ingredient on Flipped Learning is the use of online learning material. With the growth of YouTube in particular, children are less reliant on the teacher to learn knowledge and even master practical skills. In football, there are some excellent videos and learning materials on the web. In order to make these effective as teaching tools, the correct knowledge needs to be identified. This knowledge needs to be easy-to-learn from good quality video, and the correct questions or tasks given to the learner. The Player Reflection Tool provides all this for the learner.
4. Better Using the Skills of Expert Coaches
The key part of the Player Reflection process is action. Without action, reflection is a redundant method in skill development. The football session itself is still the centre of learning for football, and the coach takes on an even more important and even more highly-skilled role. In a group of 12 children, there will probably be many different areas that they have chosen to work on. The coach will need to be familiar with the areas that the children have chosen to improve, and also familiar with the child themselves (What stage are they at? How will they respond to tuition or suggestion? etc). Interventions and activities will need to be tailored to what each child needs. The coach is no longer the leader of the session, but an additional and expert support person for learning.
Advice to coaches using the MoF Player Reflection Tool with their team or group
The Tool can be really powerful as a way of engaging players in their own learning. But it potentially means that every player turns up to sessions with a completely different learning focus. From our experience at MoF, this is how we made this situation work for us:
- All players emailed us their two learning aims. We were able to then check to see whether the aims they had chosen were appropriate for each of them. (We found that nearly all the time they were, but there was the odd ocassion of a player choosing to work on Shooting when actually they need to first work on getting opportunities to shoot). You may find that you can group players according to what they are working on - perhaps you have 3 or 4 players all working on the same area: This may provide an opportunity to work with them collectively and have them support each other.
- We printed a sheet out with all the player aims info and pinned it to the wall at sessions. This allowed the coaching team to quickly see what specific individuals were working on, and offer help where it was needed.
- Our sessions changed, as it was no longer relevant to have a theme or topic decided by the coach. Instead we set-up lots of different kinds of small-sided games, and mixed players around teams, and teams around pitches throughout the session. The players were all working on different things, and our sessions needed to provide lots of game time. We no longer brought all the players in to us, as there was no longer anything relevant to say to them as a collective. Our coaching and support was much more one-to-one, and typically happened at the side of pitches, taking a player out of the game while the game continued. Sometimes we would need to stop the game to show things in action within the game, like recreating a situation. A good coaching method was to bring a player out and ask them to watch another player for 5 minutes, someone who was more expert in that learning area.
- We found that we couldn't aim to work with every player in every session. It was too much for the coaches. In order to help a player, you need to watch them in action for a while, and invest time and energy in their situation. In reality, if each coach could work with 2-3 players effectively in one session, that was an achievement. We split the players up in a kind of rota system, so we made sure we worked with them all, and they all got roughly equal amounts of attention. Coaches made notes on the whiteboard of support they had given, and this was photographed each week and added to our register of information.
- And finally: We found it worked best when players came to coaches to ask for support in an area, rather than coaches leading this process. This takes time and trust, and is a complete change of learning culture and player-coach relationship - so it won't happen overnight. One thing we did to try to encourage this was to ask each player to add their name onto the whiteboard at the start of the session. under one of the followong headings:
- Please check in with me regularly to see how I am getting on
- Please help me if you see something specific that I could learn from
- I will come to you if and when I need support or help
- I don't want any support today, I want to try things on my own
- Please check in with me regularly to see how I am getting on
I am amazed by the early progression and skill acquisition of children when they join the Ministry of Football programme. If we could keep that development continuing at that rate for longer then we could dramatically enhance the quality of player and person that leaves the programme years later. The Player Reflection Tool may be part of the solution. You can use the tool by clicking on the link below.