Pete Sturgess talks to a group of boys in the Foundation Phase, who are split in to two teams, to explain the next part of the training session.
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How to promote the England DNA in your coaching

In this DNA session, FA national Foundation Phase lead, Pete Sturgess, demonstrates coaching that promotes key DNA messages and encourages social development.

How to play

This session is made up of two simple activities:

  • Activity one - players are challenged to win possession of the ball.
  • Activity two - players are challenged to win possession of the ball and score.

Throughout, Pete Sturgess uses both time constraints and competition to increase motivation and promote collaboration. He also employs an element of anticipation to encourage engagement - the players are told that the winners of the initial activity will get to go first in the next (secret) game. 

For more information on both activities and how the session was put together, take a look at the text further down the page – you can read this before you watch one or both of the videos below or refer to it afterwards.

Both videos show the same session but in a different way; the first one has commentary over the top, to allow you to hear the reasoning behind the session and the decisions he makes, whilst the second video allows you to watch and listen to the session as it happened, so you can hear the coaching interventions.

Session with commentary

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Session without commentary

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Activity one

Aim: to win possession of the ball.

Keeping possession is difficult – something that is clearly demonstrated in this practice. When the game starts, the green team win the ball quickly and complete the challenge in only six seconds. However, with a time constraint in place, both teams are given the chance to repeat the task (and improve) against highly motivated defenders. This is a great technique that can be applied to other sessions.

During the practice, humour is used to maintain a positive tone. For example, when one team isn’t performing as well, Sturgess makes light of the situation by joking that their opponents kept possession for ‘three and a half weeks’. This approach helps both teams to remain motivated and engaged throughout the activity: when they win, the green players are very excited – even though they don’t know what the next game involves.

Before starting activity two, Sturgess helps the players work out why the green team found it easier to keep possession. This also provides the opportunity to reinforce key DNA messages, such as ‘staying on the ball’ – which, as an alternative to passing, is a great way to remain in control. Sturgess wants the players to understand possession as an ‘individual event’ and feel confident enough to keep the ball until an attacking option becomes available.

Activity two

Aim: to win possession of the ball and score a goal.

In this game, whenever a team wins the ball, they’re challenged to score a goal – at either end of the pitch. This multidirectional element encourages players to make quick counter-attacking decisions, e.g. recognising that one goal is easier to attack than the other.

Throughout the activity, Sturgess is on hand to provide regular feedback. This focuses on their ability to keep possession and helps to:

  • motivate both teams, whether on or off the ball
  • provide a sense of pressure (and increase the realism of the challenge).

During this second game, the blue team improve significantly and the green team are unable to gain possession. After two minutes, and no goal, the activity is stopped and the teams swap roles; the blue players become the pressing side and are challenged to win the ball and score within the two minutes allocated.

By using a time limit and creating a ‘winner takes all’ conclusion to the game, Sturgess helps to maintain intensity, pressure and energy throughout the session - right up to the last activity.

Remember: as a coach, your role is to generate excitement and enjoyment in every session. In these games, the reaction of the winning team says it all.

Throughout both activities Sturgess provides continual reinforcement of key DNA messages, including the following direction:

"Choose whether to keep possession for yourself by your own great individual ability or combine with your teammates to keep possession."

This advice helps to empower young players by explaining that they (and not their coach) are the ones who make the choice: am I capable of managing this situation alone or do I need more help?

The session ends by recapping a number of key DNA-related points. By repeating reminders like this (in both games and training), coaches can communicate clear and consistent messages that support development in line with the England Foundation Phase DNA.

Want to take this practice further? Give each team a goal to attack and defend – just like a real game.


To learn more about Foundation Phase DNA, click here.


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