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Changing the mindset of what winning looks like in the Foundation Phase.

"Race you to the car?"

I have already started running without knowing where the car is or where we are going.

"Dad can you play me on FIFA?." Not a good idea may I add, who knew FIFA rage was a real thing?

I admit I am one of the most competitive people I know and I hate losing.

Saturdays are ruined when my favourite team loses and being from the blue half of Bristol,

means a lot of miserable Saturdays in my house.

The only glimmer of Footballing happiness now relies solely on your team's Matchday.

Full of optimism you arrive early, set up the Goals, respect barriers and corner flags, and eagerly

awaiting your team's arrival.

You deliver the team talk of your life! The players have warmed up like Pros, and you let your self-confidence rise and then reality hits. 6-0 down within 5 mins. (Scores not Important).

the opposition coaches smugly ask "Do you want to bring an extra 1 or 2 players on?"

(please note- excellent gesture and when utilized is beneficial for all players but salt in the wound of a super competitive person)

The second half is much the same, but that optimism and eagerness you started the day with,

soon becomes disbelief, and you become disheartened. You hand your players over to their parents and guardians, and off they run laughing, jumping around with not a single care in the world.

"Did you see my skills, Mum?"

" What's for Dinner? I'm starving"

" Can we go to the park please "

" Dad, I almost scored today did you see my shot?"

" How good was my sliding tackle?."

Maybe 1-2 players will cross reference the score but 99% have forgotten it by the time the final whistle has gone and they are on to the day's next adventure.

But there your stood with your Pride fully Dented all the hard work you've put in over the week seems like an absolute waste, and you're Dreading the Workplace Banter coming your way.

lightbulb Moment.

I knew something had to change, if my Players can leave without a care in the world, why am I replaying every single missed kick, questioning why did my players dribble and not pass?

Speaking with an amazing coach and mentor he asked.

- "What are my goals for my players in the foundation phase?"

- "What are my player's motivations for playing the game?"

- "What does Success look like to a child?"

These questions stuck with me as my mind was spiralling.

Success for almost all children on a Football pitch in the foundation phase is not about who won or lost.

For them, it's copying something they have seen on television.

It's overcoming individual obstacles and challenges they have faced from taking their first shot to trying to dribble around a bigger player they felt intimidated by.

it's about Learning through trial and error, and I was making it about me and my pride.

The FA have spent millions on Creating an England DNA of how we play and how we Coach.

Laying out the blueprints for us as coaches on how to develop and challenge players, my mindset began to shift from the outcome being the only thing that mattered

to the process and improvements of the individual and collective. My enjoyment of coaching drastically improved working with such young children and over the past few years, I have picked up a few things I have found really helped develop the culture of the Foundation age teams I have worked with.

Top Tips.

- Look at matches as an additional training tool.

- Match targets are not results-based and make them clear for parents and players.

- Celebrate the small in-game victories. ( Positive Reinforcement)

- Encourage bravery from your Players.

- Talk with parents about what your aims are before the match and they can help make a massive positive impact. e.g. wing play - please clap and praise the team whenever they look to pass wide.

- Be consistent with your energy levels. Don't Celebrate a goal like it's a world cup final and then show little emotion when a player attempts one of your pre-match targets. (Children easily pick up on signals)

- Person before Player. not every player is going to be a young Ronaldo or even want to be. so challenge them accordingly.

-Allow for player ownership. ask for their input, it's their game. let them experiment with their own tactics and ideas and really start to understand and question their knowledge of the game.

- Have Fun.

Final Thoughts.

Envision How you see your team playing the game in 10 years' time and remember.

your players are at the beginning of their hopefully long and rewarding football journeys. So start to embed how you see them playing now.

Playing out from the back?

encourage it. yes, they will concede a ton load of goals but they will problem-solve and find a way to deal with it.

want skillful players?

ask them to dribble out of 1v1 2v1 situations etc and reward the effort even if they lose the ball. they will soon have a few go-to tricks, that will consistently get them away from defending players.

The Last group of Foundation players I was fortunate to have worked with I had an amazing group of supportive parents.

By being honest and transparent about how I see these players and this team progressing over the years.

We created a learning environment and Support network. Where we changed the mindset of what winning looks like.

Tom - Grassroots Dad.

Video - england dna foundation phase - YouTube


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm a Dad of 2 Young Superstars Participating in Grassroots Sports, A Qualified Coach with almost 10 years worth of Experience working along Side Grassroot Clubs, Development Centres and Professional Academies.

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