Empowering girls to play: How Playmakers coaches use Disney magic to inspire young girls' first steps into football
Monday, February 27, 2023
Across Europe, football coaches have been carrying out incredible work providing young girls with their very first steps into football through the magic of Disney storytelling.
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The UEFA Playmakers programme uses an innovative storytelling approach featuring much-loved Disney characters such as Moana or Elsa from Frozen to help girls see the fun in football and regular physical exercise.
The programme is specifically designed for girls aged 5 – 8 who have never played football before, meaning coaches play a key role in kick-starting a life-long love of football and physical activity.
Who are the Playmakers coaches?
Playmakers can be found in 44 National Associations all over Europe, with over 4,600 UEFA Playmakers coaches (also known as deliverers) leading its success and giving young girls their first opportunity to engage with football through a Disney narrative.
The Playmakers coaches are people-oriented individuals who care about children and their development first and foremost. They can be parents, teachers, passionate football fans or getting involved in football activities for the first time alongside the girls.
To ensure that Playmakers coaches are equipped with the necessary skills to inspire and motivate young girls, UEFA has developed a comprehensive training programme. Since its inception in 2020, 237 coach educators across Europe have been trained in the specific storytelling techniques and methods used to encourage girls to play football through their favorite Disney characters. These coach educators then train local coaches in their own countries, providing a sustainable and scalable approach to promoting girls' participation in football.
Become a Playmakers coach: Aspiring Playmakers coaches can reach out to the Football Association in their country to learn more about open positions and upcoming training sessions.
How does a Playmakers session work?
Each session begins with a warm welcome from the coach and the distribution of colourful football bibs and adventure passports. The adventure passport serves as a guide for the girls' progress throughout the day, providing a sense of achievement and purpose.
The coach then leads the girls in a group reading activity, setting the scene for the day's adventure. Using captivating stories from Disney's rich and varied universe, the coach seamlessly integrates football skills with adventure, keeping the young players engaged and motivated throughout the session. From exploring the high seas with Moana to battling evil villains with the Incredibles, each adventure is designed to spark the girls' imagination and creativity.
Over the course of ten sessions, coaches build the girls' confidence in their movement, communication, teamwork, and basic football skills. At the end of each session, the girls are encouraged to reflect on what they have learned and the skills they have developed, creating a safe space for open communication. This approach allows the coaches to quickly build a positive relationship with the girls, fostering the confidence needed for active participation. To keep the girls excited, every session ends on a cliff-hanger, ensuring they can't wait to come back and continue the story!
Katarina, Playmakers coach in Slovakia
“The storytelling element of sessions has benefited many girls as they find it easier to process instructions if they are familiar with a certain subject. The girls are also starting to continue developing their football skills at home and it has been very rewarding to see their parents support this movement. ”
Milica, Playmakers coach in Serbia
“I believe that the programme has taught many important life skills in addition to improving their movements and technical ability. The girls have also learned how to control their emotions, support their friends as part of team, make brave decisions and ultimately develop more confidence.”
Playmakers through the eyes of their coaches
Playmakers coaches across Europe have shared their personal experiences, highlighting how special it is to be at the heart of girls’ first impressions of football, and to see first-hand the great leaps in their skills and confidence. Maciej, in Poland, Nichola in Scotland, Milica in Serbia, Katarina in Slovakia and Laura in Sweden tell the story of UEFA Playmakers through their own eyes.
Milica, Playmakers coach in Serbia
“The UEFA Playmakers adventure has been full of joy for both the players and coaches, and I have experienced many highlights. It has been a pleasure use the programme to create a healthy social environment which has allowed the girls to progress their football skills step by step.”
Laura, Playmakers coach in Sweden
“I really like the inspiration behind the UEFA Playmakers programme as children love Disney and its storytelling, which gets girls excited about coming to the sessions. It has been evident across the programme that this is a great way to engage with young girls and increase their involvement in this amazing sport.“
Nichola, Playmakers coach in Scotland
“We witness a notable difference in the number of the participants that have grown in confidence and progressed key skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. There were girls who sat on the side-lines initially but by week 10 they were fully engaging without any encouragement from staff.”
Maciej, Playmakers coach in Poland
“I really enjoyed giving young girls their first glimpse into the world of women’s football. The UEFA Playmakers programme has helped to improve the girls’ skills; they have also become more confident, less afraid of making mistakes and most importantly they have had a lot of fun learning how to play football.”
Become a Playmaker deliverer
Aspiring Playmakers coaches can reach out to their country’s football association to learn more about open positions and upcoming training sessions.