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The environment you create has a significant impact on your team. Get it right, and you can help players develop. Get it wrong, and you can hinder their enjoyment and chance to be skilful.  

It might feel a bit daunting. But creating a good environment doesn't need to be complicated. To help, we've broken it down into four key areas:  

 

1. Create a positive atmosphere 

This is about supporting your players. To thrive, they need to feel safe and happy.  

 

Remember that, as a coach, you're a role model. Having an open, 'can do' attitude sets a great example – for both your team and their parents.  

 

2. Promote unstructured play

This type of football is player-led. It allows your team to make their own decisions, like what activity to try or what rules to use. This freedom is fun – and it encourages players to develop their skills.

 

3. Include competition

 Kids love the competitive element of football. By mixing up the opposition's ability, you can provide fantastic learning opportunities.  

 

4. Vary your setting  

Experiencing a mix of physical environments can help your players to hone their skills. So, when planning training and matches, include some variation. Try playing on different surfaces and in different weather. And switch up your equipment too.  

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What do players think makes a good environment? Find out in the video below.  

Linked to our four key areas, here are some practical ways to create a good learning environment.  

Include parents

Working with parents often generates lively debate amongst coaches. But by including them, you can tap into an excellent source of support.  


Start by communicating your learning objectives. Try outlining what a successful session might look like – or get your players to do it for you. This helps keep everyone on the same page.  

 

Give your players ownership

Take a step back and let your team take charge.  

We all remember 'Wembley doubles' and 'headers and volleys'. Let your players bring games like these to training. Or, let them play large-numbered matches, where they select sides and lay down the rules – just like in the playground.  

By handing over ownership, you create the freedom of a real game. This gives your players the confidence to develop and try new skills.  

 

Use tournaments  

A tournament is a great opportunity for players to experience competitive football.  


It's a whole season's worth of football crammed into one day. Plus, you get to play against various levels of opposition – a perfect learning opportunity.  

During tournaments, it's easy for emotions to take over. So, before the day starts, work together to define what success looks like. And stick to it.  

 

Mix up your surface  

Imagine a ball zipping across a 4G, bouncing through a sports hall or bobbling across the grass. Three very different textures – and three very different opportunities for players to put their skills to the test.  

Varying the hardness of your surface offers interesting returns too. For example, when your team play on a solid pitch (like concrete or sand-based AstroTurf), they'll be keen to stay on their feet. So, compared to playing on grass, you'll probably see more interceptions and standing tackles.  

By adding variety, you'll teach your team how to adapt their skills to different in-game problems.  

To learn more about mixing up your surface, check out this Coachcast episode with Danny Fenner.