As a coach, you need to consider the setting you work in and think about how to best apply the DNA principles to your specific environment.
Understanding the importance of context when making sense of the DNA and carefully considering how to best apply the principles and ideas is crucial. Take time to reflect upon who your players are and what they need from their football experience. The setting you work in is often linked to the reasons people are coming to play there, whether that be in a grassroots club, a recreational community-engagement session, in a school, or maybe in a girls' regional talent centre or a boys' academy.
In some grassroots club teams; turn-up-and-play sessions; or intra-school provision, the primary motivation of the youngsters may well be that they enjoy playing with their mates or to keep fit and healthy. These environments could be based on player-led, play-like activities with choice and ownership, to inclusively engage young people whilst harnessing life skills.
In other grassroots settings, including school, district and county-representative teams, the players might be motivated by a commitment to achieve progress and improvement as well as well-being and social reasons. If so, the focus and feel of your coaching may differ slightly to provide a more challenging and focused experience.
In boys’ academies and girls’ regional talent centres, where coaches have more weekly contact time with players, it’s important to provide a healthy diet of experiences, while still protecting their childhood and avoiding premature professionalism. In these settings, coaching should be carefully tailored to meet individual needs in a way suitable to the age and stage of the young person across the four corners.
For all young players the experiences provided need to match their motivations and intentions. Unstructured play remains important, whilst competition should be presented in a player-centred way. As the players grow and change as young people, their requirements will also change. Making assumptions, skipping stages or expecting all young people to want the same experience from football must be avoided in order to ensure players love their game, keep playing and maximise their development as young people.
It's also important not to pigeonhole players. Coaches should be aware that the same young person could access football across a variety of settings on a weekly basis, with all of them having different beneficial returns.
To find out more, explore our Youth Development Phase DNA playlist.