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What we ACTUALLY teach on the football field

Updated: May 16, 2023

I recently spoke at the Madras Dyslexia Association about the role of outdoor sport in stimulating children and their development. That got me thinking about what it is that we really teach at Great Goals.


Great Goals Football Academy for kids in Chennai
What we actually teach on the football field matters

So let’s start with: What does sport teach us? At the most basic and individual level, sport teaches us about ourselves – about our body, brain and mind. Through sport, we learn the capabilities of our body, the kind of sport we like to play and the extent or level that we can physically take ourselves to.


And this is amplified with children. They learn early to make sport a part of their life and how much they can push themselves. More likely than not, physically active children will be physically active adults.

At Great Goals we follow what is called the Long Term Player Development Model. The model helps us set objectives, run classes and assess progress of 4-5 dimensions.


Technical – things a player needs to know about the sport – for football that will be things like dribbling, passing, shooting, defending…. YES THIS IS WHAT A PARENT SENDS THEM TO LEARN!

Physical – here we look at a player’s agility, balance, coordination and speed,– what is generally classified as MOTOR skills. For older and more advanced players – flexibility, power, strength

Social – here we look Behaviour, the ability to Reflect and learn, Team work, building interpersonal relationships, accountability, Responsibility, Independence

Psychological – Confidence, Creativity, Concentration, Communication, Control, Commitment

Tactical – when we put all these together and apply them in a game – teamwork towards achieving a common goal

  • Communication and Confidence towards maximizing collective strengths and exploiting the opponent’s weaknesses.

  • Understand and apply individual, unit and team roles and responsibilities

  • Adopt varied playing styles and formations

  • Perform effectively against varied playing styles and formations

  • Deal with varied environmental conditions

So when a child comes to us for a structured sports session, he or she is not just coming to kick a ball. They are coming to learn about*

  1. Kinesthetics* – Understanding the capabilities of their bodies and learning to control some of their actions, learning what their boundaries are and which boundaries they can push and how.

  2. Spatial and Visual Cues– a key part of football coaching is learning about space and learning to scan – where your team mate is, where your opponent is. Learning to map the field visually and then make decisions based on the map

  3. Verbal – Linguistic Communication– They are learning what verbal cues they need to use to help their team mates, effective communication that will make sure that the team together can achieve their goal during the session. It can be as simple as a call that says “man on you” or “free” or just raise your hand or the goalkeeper cuing you on what kind of pass to make or shoot.

  4. Interpersonal skills – Much has been said about the role of sport in developing team players for life. There is a moment in your training when you realize that 11 players can get the ball from one end of a pitch to the other and score a goal, faster and more efficiently than just you or just you and your best friend, you become a team player. You learn to respect everyone, you learn to trust (that takes work and it part of the coaching).

  5. Decision Making / Problem Solving skills – in a football game, decisions on where to pass, where to move, where to shield, who to defend are constantly being made and usually under pressure. Again this is something we under-estimate in young children and you typically have a coach on the side-lines telling every player what to do. But if you want the player to learn and develop, we have to coach this ability to think on their feet (literally) because whether the child is going to continue to play or not, they are going to be able to think and problem solve.

  6. Friendships – At Great Goals we have children from over 70 schools. When we started we had kids from about 10 schools. My son who was in our very first batch still has some of his best friends, his “bros”, from over 7 different schools – what binds them? They played football together for about 5 years. They come from different socio-economic backgrounds, they have different interests, but they are “home” with each other.

And finally I think that’s what this is about – it is about every child learning to be the best version of themselves. And for that we need to create a sports culture that is open, inclusive and a positive experience for everyone who participates. So that your place of sport is your space of Joy, Safety and Freedom.

*To read more about this please look up Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

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