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Why do your players play?

In the clip below, Bex Garlick, FA national coach development lead, explains how to answer this question. She also explores some of the main reasons people take part in football.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas.  

Most people play football because they like it. With this in mind, ensuring your sessions feel like an actual game is essential. Easy ways to do this include:

  • using goals and goalkeepers
  • encouraging competition (e.g. awarding points)
  • adding opposition (e.g. one side versus another)
  • making play directional (teams attack one end of the pitch and defend the other). 

This is another popular motivation. Football allows players to spend time with friends, strengthen existing relationships and meet new people. 

To help support this social connection, try to: 

  • give your team time to catch up at the start of a session 
  • let players pick sides
  • build team talks into training
  • ask open questions and encourage interaction. 

For more on the link between relationships and motivation, check out this article.  

Football is a sport that requires loads of different movements. From stopping and starting to dodging and weaving – the game offers a great way to improve your fitness.  

To encourage physical health, try to maximise your team’s movement and time on the ball. Adding constraints, like those listed below, can help. 

  • If the ball goes out of play, you only have three seconds to get it back on the pitch.
  • All your team must be in the opposition’s half for a goal to count.
  • Any goals scored within 10 seconds of winning possession are worth two points – instead of one.  

And remember, when designing a ‘fitness’ session, always check in with your players. Lee Brown, FA coach developer, explains why... 

Playing for skill development

Learning new things can be really motivating. In fact, lots of people say they play football to build their skills. This could be technical ability, like dribbling or shooting. It could also be things like solving problems, making decisions and communicating effectively.   

To help your team develop, try to:  

  • identify clear aims for your session 
  • give individual players specific challenges
  • encourage ownership and responsibility.  


Playing because they have to

Hopefully, you won’t come across this scenario too often. However, if a team member seems reluctant to take part, your best bet is to work out how to engage them. If you focus on things they enjoy, they may come around. 

Meeting your team’s needs: an example

In the clip below, Lee discusses how he designed a session to meet the needs of a specific team.

Based on this feedback, Lee included the following elements in his training. 

  • Goals and goalkeepers to maximise fun.  
  • Tactical decision-making to support social connection.
  • The opportunity to attack and defend to encourage fitness. 


It’s important to remember that most people play football for various reasons. The best way to discover your team’s unique mix of motivations? Ask them. Then, you can use this information to design sessions that meet their needs.