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UEFA Playmakers programme attracting new players and coaches alike

About UEFA

It is not just young girls benefiting from the innovative link-up between UEFA and Disney, with coaches across Europe enthused by the grassroots initiative.

UEFA via Getty Images

The Playmakers programme, which uses the magic of Disney storytelling to give young girls an early exposure to playing football, has proved a huge success in its rollout, offering not just children but coaches a new way of enjoying the game.

Playmakers was launched in early 2020, with sessions centred around famous movie storylines and teaching social skills, fundamental physical movement and the basics of football.

Now adopted in 37 of UEFA's 55 member national associations, the programme has also been popular with new coaches. European football's governing body has trained 188 coach educators, whose expertise has then been passed on to a further 800 coaches to deliver the programme. Of those coaches, an estimated 57% are female, and 33% had never been involved with football previously.

The importance of fun and play

The Playmakers programme is often girls' first experience of football
The Playmakers programme is often girls' first experience of footballUEFA via Getty Images

Emphasising the importance of providing a safe, secure, and fun environment in which children can enjoy exercise, Playmakers has been gaining momentum after the initial easing of lockdown restrictions and has played a key role in engaging young girls between the ages of five and eight in regular exercise through football-related activity - with 87% of participants experiencing the game for the first time.

"It is important to create as many opportunities as we can for girls to access and play the game," says UEFA Playmakers technical and coach education expert, Stuart Grieve.

"The traditional approach of girls playing with boys is great for some girls, but for the majority, this can be a barrier to participation.

"UEFA Playmakers strives to create environments for girls to feel safe and supported. The focus is on fun, play, imagination and social interaction while doing activities which support the development of confidence. We believe Playmakers will create a more active generation of girls who love football."

Strategy proving powerful

The Playmakers programme was launched as part of UEFA's Time For Action women's football strategy. Since 2019, Time For Action has helped more than 350,000 women and girls across Europe to play the game for the first time, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on participation.

Feedback from Playmakers coaches

Lisa Alzner, Playmaker coach education expert

"There are many young girls that do not have access to football, due to stereotypes or parents’ disinterest. However, almost every girl has access to Disney. Playmakers offers an enormous chance to reach a completely new target group and involve girls in football.

"With Playmakers, girls identify easily with the characters of the storyline which leads to a faster connection to football. Moreover, many girls enjoy playing in a purely girls’ group, which is a key characteristic of the programme, too."

Ellinor Johansson, Playmakers coach, Sweden

"Disney are experts in creating a magical, fun, and imaginative world. Through the programme, the girls become a part of the story during the activity and identify with the characters as role models. They learn important life skills while playing football."

Zuzanna Walczak, Playmakers coach, Poland

"I like the flexibility of this programme and that we don't impose strict rules on girls. I love that each girl can come to the class dressed how they want, and that football is an addition to the fun.

"The exchange of various experiences with different football people from all over Europe and with UEFA experts was so valuable. The programme completely changes the way you think about football training and shows the power of storytelling to encourage kids to play."

Barbara Bermingham, football development officer, Ireland

"I have been taken completely out of my comfort zone in lots of the sessions, but in a very positive way, it really puts you in the mind of a young girl trying football for the first time."

Learn more about UEFA Playmakers