How football helps players to develop life skills
Inspired by Ceri Bowley, a former FA coach mentor, we examine how football can help players develop essential life skills.
What are life skills – and why are they so important?
According to the World Health Organisation, life skills are the abilities and positive behaviours that allow us to deal with the demands of every day. Without life skills, it can be difficult to cope – or succeed.
How does football help players develop life skills?
In the words of Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee: "the world of sport is not separate from the rest of the world. Sport breaks down barriers, promotes self-esteem and can teach life skills and healthy behaviour."
Football demonstrates this perfectly. Taking part allows players to practice things like:
- verbal and non-verbal communication
- collaboration and making friends
- determination and commitment
- decision-making and problem-solving
- managing emotions
- showing respect for others (e.g. coaches, referees and opponents).
Interestingly, players often expect football to improve their social interaction more than their technique. But your team won't develop life skills just by playing the game. These abilities are taught, not caught. Let's take a closer look.
How can you coach life skills in football?
1. Communicate clear messages
Explain your learning objectives at the start of each session (e.g. we're focusing on leadership today). This clarity helps players understand your aims and develop their skills.
2. Reinforce key points
You can do this by speaking to your whole team or catching up with individuals. You can even use real-life examples to help you explain. For instance, if one of your players is communicating well, call it out to the group. Alternatively, use video footage to model good practice. This could be clips of professionals or your own team.
3. Let players reflect
At the end of your session, give players a chance to think about what they've learnt. This could be as individuals, in pairs or in small groups. As they make sense of their experience, encourage them to think about how their skills apply to other contexts. For example, if you're working on leadership, ask them why this skill matters in football – and beyond.
Remember: helping players to develop life skills is a collaborative task. Explain your approach to your team's parents and carers, and ask them to get involved.