Skip to main content


To help players reach their potential, we need to provide them with ‘inspirational opportunities’. This sounds like a grand plan, but it’s actually pretty simple. 

Basically, inspirational opportunities are experiences that vary your team’s football ‘diet’. Let’s explain. 

Imagine you make the same cottage pie every night. After a while, you get really good at cooking that pie – but you don’t learn anything new. You never explore extra ingredients or discover how other dishes can inspire your style. 

The same is true of football. To become skilful players, your team need to mix up their ‘meals’. They need the opportunity to learn from lots of different experiences. They need volume and variety


So, what does a balanced diet in football look like? In the video below, real players discuss some of their inspirational opportunities.

To put this information into action, we've got four top tips. 


1. Play lots of games 

And keep things interesting. Get your side involved in sessions, matches and tournaments. Challenge them with stronger teams and weaker teams. Even chuck them in with an older group. To learn, players need to play. 

2. Explore different formats 

This is about the number of people in your matches. Young players tend to start with small formats, like 3v3 or 5v5. Then, as they grow, so does the size of the game – right up to 11v11. 

It's important to recognise that different formats present different challenges. So, whatever the age of your players, remember to mix things up. For example, if you work with an U12s team that plays 9v9 on matchday, use your sessions to try out 7v7 or 3v3. Alternatively, arrange other matches and give a new format a go. 

3. Vary your surface 

From grass to 4G, concrete to sports hall – each pitch provides a new challenge. For example, hard and smooth surfaces allow the ball to travel faster. This forces players to make quick decisions. In contrast, uneven pitches can help players develop their 'first touch'. 

By switching between surfaces, players learn to manage the ball as it moves in different ways. They become more adaptable. 


4. Embrace informal football 

This type of football is player-led. It's a playground game or a kickabout in a cage. And it's a breeding ground for creativity. 

To encourage informal play in sessions, let players make their own decisions. For example, ask them to pick teams, create a rule or choose the next activity. Alternatively, recreate street games. In many countries, this type of informal play is the bedrock of player development. 

As a coach, it's essential to recognise the importance of volume and variety. The tips above will help you unlock the possibilities of a balanced football diet. To read more on this topic, check out this article