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UEFA Grassroots Week: Swedish FA's School Ball programme helping children develop physical and social skills

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Funded by UEFA's Football in Schools initiative, the programme is active in 1,350 institutions across the country.


School Ball (Skolbollen) football lessons in Swedish primary schools are helping children develop their physical and social skills as well as other core areas of the curriculum, says Mika Sankala, Football in Schools Manager at the Swedish Football Association (SvFF).

"The activities delivered as part of the School Ball programme bring many physical benefits for children. We do lots of physical activities with the ball – it is not just playing the game," explains Sankala. "Everything we do encourages co-operation between pupils. This means that the children are mixing with children of different ages and different cultures. We also make fair play a part of every lesson."

Launched in August 2021, Sweden's School Ball programme provides each school with an equipment pack including balls, cones and bibs as well as access to a website with over 400 exercises and activities for teachers to use and adapt. The programme has proved popular across the country.

"We have around 2,500 schools for children aged 6 to 12-years-old," explains Sankala. "Today we have 1,350 schools involved, that's about half of all the schools in that age range. So, it's been a huge success for us."

Research conducted by UEFA and Leeds Beckett University has found a positive response from schools and teachers involved in the programme. "Educators who deliver the programme believed the activities worked well, were satisfied with the materials they received and believed the children were satisfied with them," said Dr. Megan Hill, postdoctoral research fellow at Leeds Beckett University.


How School Ball supports the core curriculum in Swedish schools

At the start of the programme 'School Ball' took place before and after school as well as during breaks. However, the benefit to the core curriculum has now been established. "School Ball is now delivered within PE lessons as well as other lessons," says Sankala. "The sessions can link with mathematics, geography, Swedish language and other areas."

Demonstrating the wider benefits football can bring to the educational curriculum has been a key part of the success of the programme.

"We didn't go to the schools and say, 'the SvFF says that you have to play more football'. Instead, we went to the schools and said that we all, as a society, have a big challenge to get our children to move more, have more physical activities to enjoy and to have fun and spend time with each other.

"We then showed how football, as the biggest sport in the world, has a good chance to help with that. That was maybe the key to it: to come into the schools and not force football as a game, but to show that it is a tool to encourage many important skills."

Encouraging teachers to share best practice online

Research findings also highlighted that one of the most effective ways of promoting the School Ball programme has been through the social media accounts of teachers.

"We thought that our Swedish FA website pages were the most important way to get the news out about the programme," says Sankala. "But it wasn't. The most important communication method was how the teachers were sharing the message and different ideas with each other. We have been really happy to see that a lot of the teachers are doing this using social media."

Developing a player pathway: linking schools to clubs

The Swedish FA now aims to grow the School Ball programme by developing stronger links between schools and clubs.

"What we want to do now is to get the connection from the schools to the clubs and from the clubs to the schools," says Sankala. "We want to show the pathways for the kids, because if they want to do some more things with football, we want them to know where their closest club is. And, similarly, we want the clubs to know where all the schools are.

"We made a map on our website that shows all the schools in Sweden, so clubs can go in and see which schools are in their neighbourhood. It means the clubs can inform the kids about the positive environment and training they offer after school."

School Ball: find out more

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