"Joy is a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace - a connection to what matters" - Oprah Winfrey

What would a children's football session look like if they designed it for themselves? Well it certainly wouldn't include any of the following: Queues, lectures, adults shouting at them, complicated instructions or lots of rules. Instead, we think it would involve games, games and more games. At Ministry of Football we understand that children enjoy playing so we tailor teaching and learning around playing games.

Enjoyment is different from Fun. Fun is having a vaguely good time. Joy is immersion in Now, the present moment. It is the pleasure felt when nothing else matters except what is right here and right now. For many children, the magic of football is that it allows instinct and expression to take over from the deliberate and rehearsed learning that often happens in the school classroom. This celebration of expression, creativity and the present moment should be a common theme through everything we do at Ministry of Football.

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge" - Albert Einstein

Football and the Meaning of Life: Joy, Thrill and Flow

How is life essentially measured? And what part does football play? Certainly, many of the children at MoF harbour dreams of one day playing for Spurs or Arsenal or Chelsea. We take those dreams seriously, and provide coaching which we believe is at the same level the children would get at the Academies of those professional clubs. But we also believe that football for under 11s should offer more than just an abstract future to strive for.

Children spend an increasing amount of time (and under an increasing amount of pressure) at schools and extra study with the aim of stuffing their brains full of information they will need in the future. Play time, in its truest sense, is a place to get lost in the present moment. We believe in serious play. Ministry of Football offers an environment where intense immersion in small-sided games provides a pathway to joy.

Our 4-aside Mini-Leagues offer a safe and positive environment to experience the thrill of competition. Children deserve the chance to keep score, be in a team and win or lose. Unfortunately it is these aspects of football that most other leagues and clubs get very wrong. We understand that when it comes to serious play, children do not need adult involvement at all - and certainly not the type of adult pressure and criticism that usually comes as soon as a league table is put together.

If our lives are measured by the thrills and joy we experience, then football needs to be done the Ministry of Football way. We won't take the risk of over-teaching the kids and continually interrupting their games - even if it means we don't get the chance to correct all their mistakes. Paradoxically we believe that children immersed in the flow of the present moment will learn more deeply than when they are constantly stopped to be coached.

Further Reading

Fun: A National Epidemic

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Mark Carter


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