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Why Football Doesn’t Deserve a Red Card!

Early years writer, consultant and trainer, Helen Bromley explains how introducing a football theme into a setting can bring benefits to both child and educator.

Football is one of the most popular sports in the UK. Watched in millions of homes on television and enjoyed at an amateur level by many, there can be no doubt that the sport forms an important part in the lives of many families. Understanding and harnessing the enthusiasm football generates in young children can open doors to meaningful learning opportunities across all areas of provision. Whether children or adults are the instigators, there are undoubted advantages to working with football as a topic:

  • Football is a sport played worldwide. Players of all nationalities inhabit our major leagues, giving an opportunity for children to become increasingly conscious of a whole range of nationalities, as well as becoming sensitive to and valuing a variety of cultures. There is a strong policy of respect for both players and supporters at professional level that would be in line with the ethos of all educational settings.
  • Whilst it may sometimes receive a bad press, football is essentially about many valuable qualities, including teamwork, loyalty, perseverance and playing by the rules. Educators can emphasise these positive aspects of the game and also use such understandings to their advantage when trying to negotiate tricky disputes.
  • Following a football theme will mean that children feel reassured about the kinds of literacy activities that they participate in at home. Football can be an open door to all aspects of literacy, beginning with speaking and listening. We all talk with confidence when we know our subject and young children from families where football is an interest will be young apprentices in the sport, gaining all kinds of knowledge along the way.
  • Like any hobby, an interest in football is frequently supported by a whole range of printed material. Magazines, programmes, fanzines and much more could all find a place in the reading environment of the early years. Seeing evidence of all kinds of familiar text in their educational setting will give children confidence to engage in a range of activities related to the topic.
  • A football theme will make learning look exciting and inviting to many children. They will be highly motivated to take part in a wide range of activities, to which they will be able to bring a raft of knowledge and expertise, gleaned for a wide variety of sources, including close family.
  • Educators can use a football theme to build bridges between media texts and those that might traditionally be considered more valuable. Being able to make links between a range of texts in this way is empowering for children and allows them to use knowledge from home in the world of education.
  • The subject of football is a source of great pleasure for many children and their families, and as such provides an excellent way to forge links with parents and for children to demonstrate what they know. This creates opportunities for adults to become the learners and for children to be the experts!

It is important to be aware that a focus of football will not only appeal to boys; there will be girls too who have a keen interest in the sport.

Ultimately, football offers educators an inspiring way to build bridges between the literacy practices of home and education, building on young children’s confidence and enthusiasms whilst creating pathways to new knowledge, skills and understanding.

Excerpt taken from Come Alive Football Resource Pack by Helen Bromley.

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