Outdoor Learning and Play
The historic win for the England women’s football team will inspire a huge number of girls to try their hand at the sport and be willing to join a club.
Following the Lionesses’ recent success in Euro 2022, Pentagon Play are here to help schools to develop their sports facilities, giving more girls opportunities to succeed.
Schools will need to be able to provide a range of equal opportunities for girls’ football training.
FA director of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell states, “Currently only a third of girls aged 5-18 participate in football every week and we want to change that. Now is the time to drive a far-reaching ambition to open up the game in every way to girls.”
Invest in a Multi-Use Games Area
Pentagon Play creates the highest quality MUGA pitches where girls can be given space and freedom to play daily football matches. The pitches can be built to suit any space and budget with a wide range of surfacing options available.
MUGA pitches include a shock pad layer for ultimate safety and protection and excellent drainage options ensure that changing weather conditions never stop play! Bright, long-lasting sports lines can be added, helping rules to be adhered to.
Here at Pentagon, we are very proud of our MUGA pitches. They are certainly built to last and meet the standards of Sport England. Our 4G Artificial Grass is double the density of the usual 3G grass surfacing which meets the performance standards set by FIFA themselves.
Enclosures can be built around our MUGA pitches, giving a designated sporting space in the playground and ensuring pupil safety. Girls may enjoy having a girls-only football slot in the MUGA pitch where it is there time to shine! It may be possible for schools to use their sports budget to build a designated pitch specifically for girls to practise their football skills. We offer a cost-effective 20x12 Kickabout Pitch that can be installed on grass and tarmac surfacing.
In the UK, it is recommended by Chief Medical Officers that primary-aged children have 60 minutes of daily physical activity, 30 minutes is expected to take place during the school day. Playing football is a fantastic way for girls to take part in physical activity as it involves running, walking, sprinting and kicking which helps to increase stamina, and strength and improve coordination.
Research by WSFF (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation) shows that girls drop out of sport and physical activity at a faster rate than boys. From year 4 to year 6 in primary school, the proportion of girls participating in the recommended amount of sport and physical activity drops sharply, whilst the proportion of boys’ increases. By age 14, only 1 in 10 girls are doing enough physical activity to benefit their health compared with roughly twice the number of boys of the same age.
The good news is that most girls (74%) when interviewed in a study by WSFF said they wanted to do more physical activity. Schools can play a major role in helping to engage more girls in sport and physical activity.
Invite a Specialised Coach to School
A specialised football coach will have the necessary skills and experience to inspire the next generation of female footballers to get involved in the sport. MUGA pitches allow coaching sessions to take place in a fun and safe environment where girls can have fun, make new friends and develop a lifelong love of the game.
Young fans will certainly admire England players such as Leah Williamson and Ellen White. Female coaches act as role models for pupils, offering advice and training. Coaches are experts in making training sessions fun by offering small challenges leading to feelings of accomplishment.
Offer Girls Football as an After School Club
The addition of a MUGA Pitch offers plenty of scope for after-school clubs. Offering weekly practise time with specialised coaches allows girls to see themselves constantly improving. Regular feedback on effort and performance can boost confidence and engagement.
Girls often start to play football much later than boys therefore it is important to offer a range of clubs or schools teams catering for age and skill set, giving all girls a chance to participate.
Physical Activity Improves Cognitive Function
Research suggests that when young pupils complete some physical activity, cognitive function improves for approximately one hour after exercise.
Attention, memory, reasoning and decision-making can be enhanced following team games which highlight the importance of regular opportunities for physical activity to be included within the school day.
Physical activity, such as playing team football matches, requires pupils to make quick decisions which have positive effects on cognitive function.
Mental Health Benefits
Participating in girls’ football encourages pupils to take initiative, engage in teamwork, develop self-control and build positive relationships with peers and coaching staff. Physical activity can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in young people, increasing endorphins and releasing lactic acid which has been shown to benefit mental wellness.
Playing football helps to create a sense of ‘togetherness’ when participating in healthy competition. Training as a team creates many opportunities for positive social interactions which helps young people to develop social skills and their ability to cope with stress.
Make the best use of your MUGA with some suggested activities for football sessions:
Warm-up Activities for Girls’ Football Sessions
• Throwing and Catching - How high can pupils throw a ball? How high can they throw a ball and successfully catch it? Can they throw the ball high up in the air, let it bounce and then catch it? Can they throw the ball into the air and catch it when standing on one leg?
• Pass to the Wall - Using a wall or the side of a MUGA pitch encourage pupils to pass the ball to the wall and let it come back. Ask players to pass with both feet and to experiment using different parts of their feet and different levels of power.
• Balance the Ball - Ask pupils to use different parts of their body: shoulder, arm, knee, foot to balance a ball for as long as they can. Challenge them to find a way of moving whilst balancing.
• Keepy Uppy - Encourage players to keep the ball off the ground using as many touches as they can. Challenge them to improve their score and to use different body parts. Pupils can let the ball bounce with each touch or try not to.
Skill Development for Girls’ Football Sessions
Stay on the Ball - This is a 2v2 game for 4 players. Set out an appropriate area of the MUGA pitch and give each group a ball.
Start with 1v1 in the middle of the area with the other 2 players stood on the outside on opposite sides. In this simple game players practise staying on the ball. One player aims to keep possession for a long as possible whilst the other player tries to win the ball.
If a player feels like they’re in danger of losing the ball they can pass it out to their teammate. When this happens the two players could switch or the outside player could come in and create 2v1 for a set number of passes.
Players learn how to hide, turn and move the ball under pressure.
1v1 Dribbling - In between two goal posts set up cones which act as gates. Ask players to dribble through as many gates as they can before scoring or their opponent takes the ball from them. If a player dribbles through 3 gates and scores this is their total number of points.
Encourage pupils to shield and protect their ball, using their body to hold off the defender. They must try to keep the ball in front of them and turn into the gate towards the goal.
After playing in this way the game can then be made directional by introducing set goals and a goalkeeper. Players will learn how to dribble past their opponent by using a light touch on the ball to switch past whilst accelerating forwards into a space.
Passing and Receiving - Group players into 3s and ask one player to stand in the middle of the other 2. The two players on the outside are to move around whilst the player in the middle moves, making sure they can always see both players.
Introduce passing by moving in 3s. Discuss the different parts of the foot used for passing - inside, outside, laces.
Players will practise bending and curling the ball by using the inside of their foot. Players are continually moving into new spaces.
Introduce cones (scattered around the pitch) as defenders. Players practise bending the ball around the cones and then scooping the ball over the cone.
Taking part in football sessions and matches should not be a rarity for this generation of budding female players. All girls should be given the option of playing football at school during lessons and at breaktimes. Skills and knowledge should be taught by teachers and specialised coaches from a young age to ensure enthusiasm is not deterred.
The England women’s football team are breaking the stigma surrounding women’s football and showing aspiring young players that they do belong on a pitch and they can achieve their dreams.
In a letter to government officials the Lionesses’ themselves want to encourage all girls to be allowed to play football in school, they write: “This generation of school girls deserves more. They deserve to play football at lunchtime, they deserve to play football in PE lessons and they deserve to believe they can one day play for England.”