A player in the Youth Development Phase (right) runs with the ball, leaving their opponent (left) behind.

Love the ball, love the game

12 - 16

We want our players to develop a real love of the ball and a deep love of the game. This must always be the priority. To do this, we must never lose sight of the spirit of football and the magic of ‘play’.


Youngsters should be encouraged to play with freedom of expression and imagination, have a hunger to win the ball and to work positively with teammates.

Hopefully, the players in your team have already had a positive experience of football during their Foundation Phase (5-11) experience and have a well-developed love of the game. Don’t expect this love to come across in the same way as your own; each individual will have their own connection to the game, so encourage and look after it.

By creating a fulfilling Youth Development Phase environment, you can build on this existing enthusiasm and even help less motivated players – who may have had a negative experience previously – to become more engaged.

If a player enjoys football, they often practise for fun (improving as they go) and continue their participation into adulthood. To encourage this to happen, you need to understand the relationship between young people and their experience of physical activity – specifically football. 

For more information from DNA Youth Development Phase lead, Graeme Carrick, have a look at the video below.

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Love the ball, love the game

What are the core aspects of a positive experience?

How young people feel about sport is likely to be heavily influenced by the knowledge, expertise and care of any adults who are involved. That means you.

If a parent, volunteer or coach shows a lack of understanding, empathy or support, this could turn a player away from the game. As the nation’s favourite sport, the majority of youngsters will spend (or will have spent) time playing football. This puts coaches in a privileged position: if you can create a positive environment, whilst understanding the young person and their journey of development, you can help to encourage a lifelong love of physical activity and football.


To find out more, explore our Youth Development Phase DNA playlist.

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