Marcet carries out an investigation in 100 different countries to pinpoint the real state of grassroots football and improve its educational practice.

Intuition has traditionally been a key tool in a coach’s arsenal for grassroots football training. There are still a considerable amount of technicians who still make decisions concerning their practice sessions without the help of objectively collected data. However, more often than ever, football education yerns for a pedagogical model based on scientific research and database. The learning process of football, like that of any other discipline, can be explained and predicted through the collection and study of objective data.

The first step in this direction is precisely the collection of reliable information. With this objective in mind, Marcet’s Football University has deemed fundamental the design and implementation of a scientific investigation to diagnose comparatively the real state of formative football throughout the world. An initiative aimed at transforming the education practice of the world’s most popular sport.

All the agents involved in football training that are investigated include players under construction, parents, coaches and managers. The following come together as the researched body of variables.

  • 50,000 players under construction between the ages of 6 and 18 years.
  • 30,000 parents of aspiring, young footballers.
  • 10,000 trainers.
  • 3,000 managers.
  • 100 different countries from five different continents.

The initiative is encompassed within the framework of participatory action research, since its objective is to produce a real change in the way of managing grassroots football, creating an Intervention Program to respond to both methodological problems and the current lack of specific tools so that children and young people learn the skills that they will need when they are adults, through football.

The scientific development of a pedagogical model for the learning of football requires concrete situational data, characteristics and efficiency concerning football formation around the globe.

Football administration and management is going to change drastically in the next few years through the application of new intelligent technologies in all of its areas. This will shed light onto the inefficiency and inadequate management wherever it may be occurring. Intuition is running dry as a main tool in the decision making process of trainers, teachers, analysts, physiotherapists, technical directors, managers, executives and presidents alike around the globe.

One of the most immediate challenges is utilising scientific research, being systematic and contrasting theories with real life data. The educational process in this sport can be explained, almost predicted, through the studying of different data both immediately affected by football as well as that which isn’t apparently related to football at all. The majority of football trainers still do what they have always done without asking themselves why. In football training, data is necessary to be efficient in the educational process of young players; if the numbers are taken into account and analysed, understanding and learning are both improved.

 

How does the development of football in a country influence, specifically in the efficiency of its education, the degree of connections, concentration, periphery and distance to the nucleus of football in Western Europe?

Rural areas around the globe are emptying, people tend to find themselves living in the bigger cities despite the fact that, more often than not, these urban landscapes prove themselves dirty, overcrowded and expensive places to live in. Why? Social networking and integration. Rural is synonymous to isolation so by mere opposition, these urban social networks offer useful and promising contacts.

In the same way the brain works by establishing new connections between nerve cells with each synopsis generating a new thought, individuals find the need to position themselves right in the middle of a cluster in a way that makes for more connections.

It is likely that one of the more serious problems football faces in many countries is this very -socially prohibiting- isolation in relation to the development of the sport.

Up until the 1930s, the UK exported knowledge of football through its trainers. Between 1930 and 1970, Brazil and Uruguay would win the majority of the World Cup Championships. In 1970, this reign of superiority starts to make its way across to western Europe. Since then, it has become home to the most efficient global football network.

In the German World Cup of 2006, Europe’s footballing dominance is made clear. With a population of approximately 400 million, the continent accounts for 6% of the world’s inhabitants. During this tournament, there was only one Western European team that lost to a foreign continent’s team (Switzerland to Ukraine, by penalty shootout). That year, not even Brazil was a match for what the old continent had to offer. Argentina hadn’t beat a single European team, in an open match during a World Cup, since 1986, when they lost to Germany, up until 2010. Great countries foreign to this continent like Mexico, Japan, USA and Poland couldn’t do anything to win when faced by smaller Western European countries like Portugal, Holland or Sweden.

Fabio Cannavaro levanta la Copa del Mundo en el Mundial de Alemania 2006.
Fabio Cannavaro and the italian team who won the 2006 World Cup.

 

Western Europe has a warm and wet climate, allowing for fertile land that lets hundreds of millions of people inhabit a relatively small piece of geography which subsequently allows for the creation of networks. You could have breakfast in Barcelona, lunch in Paris and dinner in Rome in the very same day: more than twenty countries in less than two hours on a commercial flight. Twenty cultures, languages, play styles, but with very similar common grounds concerning associative football that facilitates constant interchanging of knowledge between European trainers and players. It is the densest network in the world. Isolation is somewhat notorious in places like America, Asia and Oceania.

The European Union (EU) ended international borders and it became the most integrated region in history.  Many European footballers find work in countries foreign to their own because their aptitudes are publicly displayed to football technicians and managers across Europe.

The Champions League turned the old continent into a unique player market and wove a dense web of sheer talent. This let football in Western Europe become the best of its time, a fast paced sport practiced by athletes that would rarely keep possession of the ball for more than two seconds at a time, keeping the game alive with near immediate passing and a very restless ball. It might not be the most spectacular team sport (effective dribbling will always put on more of a show) but it might just be the most efficient. Proof of this can be found in the fact that today’s most successful teams choose to play this way. Even Brazil adopted this approach in the 90s. They have the upper hand in terms of skill but came to the conclusion that they would need a more European pace.

It all seems to point towards the fact that being outside of the footballing connections Western Europe has to offer is clearly detrimental to a country’s opportunities concerning their progress in the sport.

  • The five leading Western European countries collectively won 12 championships including European Championships and World Cups.
  • Countries situated in the outermost geographical margins of Europe such as England, former countries of the Soviet block, Scandinavia, etc. collectively won a single tournament.
  • Belgium, situated in the nucleus of the Western Europe, played in as many finals as the UK, Ukraine, Poland and Turkey combined.
  • Every single country in Western Europe from Portugal (west) to Slovenia (east) with a total population exceeding 1,000,000 classified for the 2010 World Cup; the countries that didn’t make classification are located, mainly, in the outskirts of the continent: the nations of the British isles, Scandinavia, all of the former nations of the Soviet Republic, and most of the remaining nations from the eastern borders of Europe as well as Turkey.
  • It looks like the countries located furthest from this “central hub” aren’t in touch with the European football that is at the forefront of progress in its time. Many of these peripheral countries have shown approaches to football that are very native and somewhat dysfunctional. The Turks, for example, dribble excessively. Adversary, the British play at long-distance passes and a lot of running.

 

Does the performance of a country’s national team depend on its income per capita, population and international experience as well as the educational model it adopts?

One way of evaluating the efficiency of a county’s footballing education is determining what the adequate degree of performance is for said nation. For this, experience in international competition, income per capita and population need to be taken into account, with the objective of comparing the expected extent of the country’s performance to its reality.

It would be unfair to expect Lithuania to play as well as a country as renowned in the footballing world and as developed both economically an in its experience in international relations as Germany. Countries like Honduras and Malta will never win a World Cup; for them the only logical way of evaluating their performance is by analysing the degree of efficiency with which they utilise their limited resources.

Hence, success can be defined as attaining a certain set of previously meditated objectives. Therefore, we must find out how accurately a team’s success can be attributed to and explained by its international experience, wealth and population alongside the extent of its involvement and the distance between itself and Western Europe’s football nucleus.

 

Does the market overvalue certain nationalities?

There are certain nationalities in the football market that are overrated. Clubs are willing to pay more money for players if they come from a trending country, for example Brazil, Argentina or Holland. The nationality with the highest asking price in the transfer market is Brazilian. The phrase “Brazilian football player” would equate to expressions such as “French chef” or “Tibetan monk”. The nationality expresses an apparent authority and innate vocation for the job at hand, despite the natural skill of the player in question.

It may be sad to admit, but it’s easier to sell an inept Brazilian player than it is an excellent Honduran player. We want to prove that if a country’s footballing education is competent, a forward thinking club will purchase players with nationalities that have lower asking prices (like, for example, Bolivians, Haitians, Panamanians, Latvians) for less money.

 

Why is it that, in football, outstanding adolescents will tend to disappear after a short period of time and not reach professional success?

If we analyse collected data from the U17’s world championships, for hypothesis si confirmed: Philip Osundo from Nigeria, William de Oliveira from Brazil, Nil Lamprey from Ghana, Scottish goalkeeper James Will and Omani Mohammed al Kathiri. Sure enough they were all outstanding but as adult players, not so much (Will eventually became a police officer in the Scottish Highlands, all the while he played for his local town’s team).

One of the most well known cases of brilliant adolescent skill was Freddie Adu’s who was considered the Pelé and Maradona’s successor at the age of 14. He never managed to convince any European teams where he had spent time wandering, from team to team, for four years. In 2017 he was left without a team and just recently he found a place for himself at the Las Vegas Lights FC.

Only a handful of world-class players from each generation (the majority of them playmakers); Pelé, Maradona, Wayne Rooney, reach the top before coming of age. Most players that actually make it, do solater on in their careers. One can only be so sure of their true potential, and more so the older they are. Is this a problem rooted in the learning methods surrounding football in each and every country? What and how we teach to adolescent athletes worldwide that can be of genuine optimal use for their future selves?

 

Does football reject the middle class and students?

We’ve chosen – in aid of establishing our hypothesis – England’s case, seen as the English are responsible for the creation of football, though this model is applicable, considering the obvious differences and variables, to many other nations across the globe.

One of the problems with British football lies in what happens before Britain’s best football players reach the Premier League. Those that manage to find a way to the top belong to, for the most part, a single and dwindling social group: the traditional working class. The country’s middle class is practically excluded from professional football. This, almost certainly, hinders the national team.

There are many ways of determining the social class into which an individual is born, but a good place to start is the parents’ occupation. Consider the fathers of the British players involved in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups: David Batty (bin man), David Beckham (heating technician), Joe Cole (fruit vendor), Sol Campbell (railway worker), Robbie Fowler (railway worker), Steven Gerrad (builder), Emili Heskey (bouncer), Paul Ince (railway worker), Paul Merson (miner), Wayne Roonye (builder), David Saeman (auxiliary mechanic), Teddy Sheringham (policeman), Jonh Terry (forklift mechanic), Darius Vasell (factory worker).

David Beckham con la camiseta de la Selección de Inglaterra.
David Beckham during a match of his national team.

 

Only five of thirty-four players on the list –Crouch, James, Lee, Southgate y Walcott-, were sons to men that made a living off something that required schooling past the age of 16. If we define the class in terms of career, 15% of the previously mentioned footballers came from a middle class background.

This dependence English football had on a reservoir of talent from the vast working class proved only moderately adverse in the past. The majority of the English population were workers. By the end of the 1980s, 70% of the British population dropped out of school at 16 years of age to, more often than note, dedicate their lives to manual labour.

At present, more than 70% of the population stay in school past the age of 16. More than 40% access higher level education. Great Britain is every little bit more a middle class country with each passing day. Whilst said football scene is still looking to recruit players from the traditional working class, it excludes a considerable part of the population that only seems to be getting bigger. This, no doubt, entails a halt in progress for the English national squad.

Another issue for the Island is that its working class would consider football something that is learned through practice, as opposed to being taught by specialised and certified educators with specific methodologies. An attitude that could be expected from an industrial society in which few individuals would benefit from a formal education. It was almost as if having one could prove itself almost embarrassing.

There still exists a class-specific tradition that isolates the British middle class from professional football: a notion we could call ‘the anti-education requisite’ for the sake of this case study. The majority of England’s football players are still leaving school behind at the age of 16. The idea that this way they could dedicate their time and energy exclusively to football persists. The simple fact that footballers aren’t too busy to set academia aside isn’t considered. Rarely will train for more than two hours a day.

Much rather it seems that studying isn’t considered highly in this niche section of society. Consequently, English football still isn’t actively welcoming middle class adolescents. The few young footballers that wish to study usually renounce their sporting aspirations to full-time professional football because they tire of being lectured by trainers lacking in academic qualifications. Coming from a ‘middle class’ background, they feel like outsiders and will be often made fun of for attending a private school or not being familiar with street trends.

This is somewhat unfortunate as there’s more and more evidence that sporting talent and academic ability go hand in hand. Athletes are mentally agile which, when focused and trained correctly, makes for great intellectual potential.

To summarise, Britain doesn’t produce better players than the less developed countries it competes with. Instead of excluding foreign players from English football, it would be of more use to include the amount of middle class locals in youth football.

 

Are less developed countries innately better at football than developed countries?

There’s a myth of sorts that claims that the less privileged are better suited to be more successful sportspersons that the privileged. A common cliche is that which claims sport to be the only escape route from poverty. It is assumed that underprivileged people are metaphorically hungrier than those that are better off. Superior genetic ‘gifts’ are also attributed to certain ethnicities. The evidence that proves that the poor distinguish themselves in the sporting world seems to be right in front of our eyes.

The English national team isn’t the only one to be predominantly populated by players with underprivileged backgrounds. Since the 1990s, France has drawn upon, generally speaking, a majority of players from their poorer colonies. The better part of the world’s leading footballers started out with few resources: South Americans like Maradona, who almost drowned in a cesspool as a child; Africans such as Eto’o or European immigrants like Zidane or Ibrahimovic, who grew up in some of the harshest neighbourhoods in Europe. It looks as though the best preparation for footballing greatness is having had an impoverished upbringing.

However, in this case study we defend that this isn’t necessarily true. In actual fact, it has been demonstrated that underprivileged countries perform less than more developed countries. It is true that poor immigrants residing in developed countries often stand out concerning the world of sports, but the reasons behind such a feat aren’t related to the previously mentioned genetic bias or ambition.

How is it, then, that many of the best European footballers – Zidane, Drogba, Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo – come from some of the poorest areas in the continent? It can’t entirely be attributed to the fact that in said ghettos, there’s an insatiable eagerness to reach success. If this was the case, they would yield better results in schools and careers outside the sporting world. In their childhood, there must have been something that made this niche collective  specially predisposed to football. It was practice. Neurologist Daniel Levitin states that to master anything, a person must have dedicated at least 10,000 hours to practicing said skill: “in case study after case study on composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, pianists, chess players, criminologists, etc. this 10,000 hours figure kept coming up…There has still yet to be found a genuine case of world-class dexterity that has been acquired in less time [Daniel Levity – ‘This Is Your Brain On Music,’ 2011.]”.

In football, the poorer youngsters are the most likely to reach that 10,000 hours mark. Their households will tend to be quite small, encouraging them spend more time outside playing, for instance, football. It is possible that their parents are less strict about homework than, say, a middle class parent would be.

Moreover, there wouldn’t be enough money to invest in other activities. A constant in these footballer’s autobiographies is a monothematic childhood of nonstop playing, even sleeping with their ball. Once these youngsters hit the age of 15, by meer means of hours spent practicing, they were a lot more capable than the other adolescents their age.

 

Is globalisation helping improve football education?

There is a shortcut to attaining the previously mentioned extensive cumulus of experience: Importing it. Turkey initialised this importation process in June of 1984, when Spain eliminated Western Germany in the UEFA European Championship. The Germans bid farewell to their trainer, Jupp Derwall. He was immediately signed by Galatasray and got busy importing the Western European style of football into Turkey. The Turk footballers were on track to developing into serious players; Turkish television began broadcasting European league games and the people watching discovered what it meant to pass the ball.

El entrenador alemán Jupp Derwall.
German trainer Jupp Derwall.

 

Before Derwal’s arrival, the average Turkish player was deemed a selfish enthusiast of the art of dribbling. Derwal sent German-born, Turkish players to Galatasaray that had been better trained physically than those that had been born in Turkey, something that can be attributed to their diet and “German work-ethic”. No other national UEFA team consisted of as many players that were brought up in foreign countries.

In summary, globalisation saved Turkish football. They realised the very thing that every country far from the European footballing epicentre should: the best way about playing football requires a balanced combination of an Italian defense, a German work-ethic and a Spanish or Dutch approach to ball possession. Strictly speaking, a European play style.

In this sport, distinguished national play styles, when singled out, don’t work; international games simply cannot be won when applying an exclusively Turkish approach to the sport. The approach must be collectively Western European.

Turkey was one of the first countries with enough bravery to rid itself of its traditional footballing culture. The majority of the countries situated in the outskirts of Europe – and the other nations of the remaining continents far from the European epicentre – had or have their own unique and dysfunctional play styles.

Greece, Turkey and Portugal, for example, would prefer to dribble the game away, whilst the British and the Scandinavian would kick the ball far and run. The Australian style (before the arrival of the Dutchman Hiddink) was all about training hard and playing hard, but then taking it easy off-the-clock and getting careless with generous rounds of beer at the hotel bar. Slowly but surely, they would all come to the realisation that these nation-specific approaches to football were not working and were quick to understand that they would do well to think like the Spanish or the Dutch. Not so much just running after the ball, but doing the right thing instead of a lot of things. Feeding creative freedom. Taking risks. Shifting positions without referring to the team manager.

In short, understanding the game at the hand of genuine Western European specialists. This is no doubt the best shortcut to attaining international experience.

At the Marcet Football University, we believe that the design and implementation of a scientific investigation is fundamental for the comparative diagnostic of the current state in which football education finds itself around the world.

This research aims to answer the following questions:

  1. Does today’s youth learn through football training and education the competencies and requisites needed for then they reach adulthood?
  2. In what way does the footballing development of a country influence (especially considering the efficiency of its training), the degree of connections, concentration, periphery and distance to the Western European football nucleus?
  3. Does the performance of a national team depend on, income per capita, population and international experience on top of its the educational model?
  4. Are there certain nationalities that are overvalued in the footballing market?
  5. Why is it that, in football, outstanding adolescents will tend to disappear after a short period of time and not reach professional success?
  6. Does football reject the middle class and students?
  7. Are less developed countries innately better at football than developed counties?
  8. Is globalisation helping improve football education?
  9. Are football educators aware of what their players need to accomplish for better chances of future employment?
  10. Is football education approached with pedagogical methodologies or with a trainer’s intuition and the latest thing s/he saw on the internet?
  11. Do footballers’ apprentices really reach a complete understanding of the game?
  12. Are incited to and worked towards creativity and intelligence ?
  13. Are trainers an enlightenment or rather a limit to the development of their players’ capabilities?
  14. Is the trainee the centre point of the educational process or is said process just a proving ground for the trainer’s knowledge and competence?
  15. Is the participation of the football trainees’ parents an effective part of the development of player values?
  16. Are football academy managers and directors concerned for the teaching of humane values through sports education?

In this investigation all agents involved in football training are subject to evaluation (players in the making, parents, trainers, managers and directors.

  • 50,000 players in the making from the ages 6 to 18
  • 30,000 parents/guardians
  • 10,000 trainers
  • 3,000 directors
  • 100 different counties from five continents

These 50,000 aspiring players will take part in different educational activities in their own environment which will be developed in 100 different countries. They will have a minimum duration of 15 hours and will serve as work experience in areas managed and directed by Marcet’s specialised technicians.

Every player will have their strengths and weaknesses diagnosed by means of a systematic, objective, technologically intelligent evaluation with digital-didactic resources. The results of the 50,000 evaluations are fed into a computer programme responsible for confectioning a comparative analysis, considering each and every variable aspect.

These very players in the making will have to participate in questionnaires specially designed for each age group with the objective of providing precise data to the researcher’s conclusions. Parents, trainers and managers take part through questionnaires put together with the latest sociological and statistical techniques.

Un entrenamiento de fútbol base en las instalaciones Marcet de Barcelona.
A grassroots football training session in Barcelona.

 

50,000 players participate in the educational activities that fall into Marcet’s pedagogical model for later evaluation. The vice-rectory of Pedagogical Innovation at the Marcet Football University has developed the Marcet Pedagogical Model for the learning of Intelligent Football, aimed at the football apprentice, for the development of their capacities and to prevent the appropriation of the teacher’s own limitations. All Marcet teachers want their students to exceed themselves. What’s important isn’t so much what the teacher knows, but more so be able to show the apprentices how to reach their own conclusions.

The general way of putting the methodology into practice is by means of the 11 steps of the Marcet Didactic Method, which provides most efficiency in the intelligent football learning process.

1.- Identify the competencies, knowledge, attitudes and values that within 10 years sports directors and professional club leaders in the best leagues of Western Europe will demand of players to hire them. This identification is the result of continuous work, so it is constantly updated as substantive changes in the reality investigated are identified.

 2.- Weighting. We determine for each of the competencies, skills and values identified a specific weight in relation to the speciality and position in the field of each player.

3.- Breakdown. To facilitate learning and assessment, the skills, knowledge and values identified are disaggregated and dissected in very concrete and detailed behaviors, in such a way that the teacher and the evaluator only have to verify if the student does something or not and to what degree of intensity (never, sometimes, often and always).

4.- Initial Matrix evaluation that determines the situation and real level of the player in each of the competencies, skills and values in his learning process.

5.- Determination of personalized objectives for each player, deciding jointly (student-teacher) what skills, knowledge, skills and values we want to improve and acquire for each specific student.

6.- Personalized learning strategies. How and when to get the student to reach set objectives. We program specific training actions and a specific deadline.

7.- Action. The strategy is put into practice through exercises, games and planned activities.

8.- Reaction. We jointly evaluate (teacher-student) the errors that occur during the action to repeat it (reaction) with the appropriate corrections to which the players have arrived by their own conclusions. Therefore they act by conviction, not by instruction. Marcet teachers only induce and enlightens. If we are not getting the students to achieve the intended objectives, we will change immediately, and as many times as necessary, the adopted strategies for new ones to adapt to the cognitive process of each specific player.

9.- Matrix evaluation. Once the deadline to reach an objective is finished, the student is evaluated to see to what degree they have achieved it. When the result is satisfactory, we move on to establish new objectives.

10.- With the Matrix evaluation, players are aware that they are acquiring new knowledge and skills, therefore motivating them to continue learning with enthusiasm, perseverance and a positive attitude. Visualize, with clarity, the result of your effort.

11.- Resolving new objectives. Teacher and player continuously establish new challenges and objectives that the student must achieve. The process is repeated in each training action. This is the circle of excellence.

The Marcet Didactic Method can be put into us in a certain context, considering the competence of a specific group of students, their age, experience, footballing culture, country of origin… Different Marcet didactic methodologies are utilised as a guide to conforming the Marcet Method to every possible variable of an international or intercultural project. Just like a taylor-made suit. In every apprenticeship, Marcet uses the latest advancements in didactic resources (intelligent technologies, latest-generation cameras, suitable game terrain and facilities…).

The survey is a technique for gathering data that uses a questionnaire as a tool to keep record of the respondents’ manifestations. The questionnaire is the most universal tool in the field of the social sciences, given its efficiency in obtaining basic information, besides being easy to complete and is able to record fast the answers of many people and the information can be quantified.

The survey is voluntary and anonymous. The questions on it are items with multiple choice answers (categorised and for classification) and items of open answerss.

Survey to 5.000 active coaches in Football Formation

The purpose of this survey is to know in depth:

  • The profile of the Football Formation coach of each of the investigated countries (age, sex, academical education, sports education, years of experience as a coach, level of division achieved…
  • The general characteristics of the Football Formation coaches, how do they work the human values education on their football teams and with the parents of their players, and the interest that the coaches show for the human values education though football and what level of human values have the coaches themselves.
  • The personal perception that coaches have about their players knowledge, attitudes and values.
  • The personal perception that coaches have about their own knowledge, attitudes and values.

 

Survey to 20.000 parents with children active on Football Formation

The purpose of this survey is to know in depth:

  • The profile of the parents of each of the investigated countries (age, sex, academical education, sports education, profession, cultural level…)
  • The general characteristics of the parents with active children on Football Education, how do they work human values education with their children, the interest shown about human values education through football and the level of human values that the parents themselves show.
  • The personal perception of their children skills, attitudes and human values in Football.
  • The personal perception of the coach of their children knowledge, skills, attitudes and human values.

 

Survey to 20.000 directors of clubs, academies and other institutions

The purpose of this survey is to know in depth:

  • The profile of the directors of each of the investigated countries (age, sex, academical education, sports education, profession, years of experience, cultural level…)
  • The general characteristics of the directors, how do they work human values education in their institutions, the interest shown about human values education through football and the level of human values that the directors themselves show.
  • The personal perception of their coaches skills, attitudes and human values in Football.

 

Survey to 4.000 players from 8 to 18 (adapted to each age)

The purpose of this survey is to know in depth:

  • The profile of the players of each of the investigated countries (age, sex, academical education, economical level, profession of the parents, social environment, cultural level, international sports experience…)
  • The general characteristics of the players, how do they work human values education in their institutions, the interest shown about human values education through football and the level of human values that the players themselves show.
  • The personal perception of their coaches skills, attitudes and human values in Football.
  • The personal perception of their own skills, attitudes and human values in Football.

Research design: methodological approach of the action-research

Our investigation has been encompassed within the framework of action-research and, more specifically, in participatory action-research, as it is aimed at social transformation through sport and a sample of 5,000 players from 100 different countries.

Action-research refers to a series of strategies carried out to improve educational and social systems. It can be defined as: “A form of self-reflexive inquiry carried out by those who participate (teachers, students, or address, for example) in social tasks (including those concerning education) to improve the rationality and justice of:

  • a) Their own social or educational practices;
  • b) Their understanding of them;
  • c) the situations and institutions in which these practices are carried out (ex.: classrooms, schools, etc.”

In this case, a reflexive inquiry is carried out by the coach, the player and the researcher, to improve their experience form the locker room to the playing field.

  • Action-research is an experience that encompasses coaches and players from 100 different countries spanning five continents.
  • Researchers do not work with artificial groups composed of socially isolated individuals, but with real groups within their usual context.
  • It involves the creation of self-critical reflection groups committed to the goal of transforming their social and educational reality according to a take on human values shared by its members. Each partaking football teams reflects on and works with objectives focused on transforming their current reality through education in values. This reinforces and maintains the sense of community and aims to promote collective wellbeing.
  • It has a participatory and democratic nature. Creating self-critical communities, where all participants gradually assume responsibilities in the process. The researchers are engaged in the process; they are not only observers, they participate and act on the process itself. The researcher and the coaches do not limit themselves to observing the players and the different given situations/outcomes, they take part in the process by means of the Intervention Programme in aid of educating values through football.
  • It involves collaboration, transformation and improvement of a social reality in its educational action, in the understanding of the practice by those who carry it out and in the situation in which said practice takes place. The aim of this research is to improve the current state of football education through an educational intervention.
  • The starting point is in the practice of the sport itself. The research is built on and from the social, educational and sporting reality of the coaches and 5,000 players from the different partaking 100 countries, taking into account their particularities, concerns, problems and difficulties that affect them.
  • It uses both qualitative and quantitative research techniques that include diaries, interviews, questionnaires, observation records, etc.
  • It brings forward test practices, ideas and assumptions. The validity of the Intervention Programme is verified through the practical sessions.
  • Its final goal is the improvement of the practice of the sport itself. The research follows an introspective spiral: a spiral of planning cycles, action, observation and reflection.

We must add the specific qualities of educational action-research to the previously mentioned characteristics:

  • It focuses on the discovery and resolution of problems faced by the faculty when practicing their educational values. In this case, the discovery and resolution of problems that the football coach faces in order to implement the values education model.
  • It is a reflective exercise, applied to both coaches (educators actively contributing to the collection of data) and players (to whom the Intervention is targeted at).
  • It integrates the theory in its practice. Educational theories are considered as value systems, ideas and beliefs represented not so much in propositional form as in practice. The development of the theory and the improvement of the practice are considered interdependent processes.
  • It involves dialogue with other professionals. This entails the exchange of information between coaches and the writing of reports that reflect the changes that have taken place in practice.

All this must guarantee the ethical principles that govern investigations concerning human beings. For this, access will be negotiated with the heads of the institutions, with the participants (players) and with the parents or guardians of the players. In addition, the confidentiality of the data and the participants’ right to withdraw from the investigation when they deem appropriate are guaranteed.

 

Research-action as an academic methodology

There were several reasons why action-research was chosen as a methodology of inquiry. Carrying out research in a training centre, by cycles, with the aim of improving the educational practice of coaches and football players is very interesting and innovative.

Action-research has been chosen since one of the main objectives is to carry out an Intervention Model, and to reformulate said Model in aid of improving the process, to educate all its participants (both players and coaches) in values. This methodology allows for flexibility and the ability to make modifications during the process, allowing for mistakes to be made, because these are also an important part of the present investigation in order to improve the Intervention Model.

Both the Intervention Model and the action-research are distinguished by the fact that:

  • They are participatory democratic processes.
  • Reflection, dialogue and group responsibility are favoured. The participation of the whole group is essential for progress.
  • There are changes in the educational practice and in the people who participate in the process.
  • It is improved and acquires depth with practice.
  • It responds to a social conception of education.

 

Qualitative-quantitative justification of the research

Action-research is characterised by using qualitative research techniques to systematically interpret the social reality at hand, and the use of quantitative research techniques.

In this case study both qualitative and quantitative techniques are used, since both are complementary and with them a much broader study of social reality can be obtained, than if only one of the research techniques was used.

 

Methodological design of the research

The Model distinguishes the following phases:

  1. Identification of the problem. Description and interpretation of the problem.
  2. Proposal of action hypothesis as actions that must be carried out to change the practice.
  3. Construction of the plan of action. It is the first step of the action that includes:

○ The review of the initial problem and the particular actions.
○ The vision of the means to start the next action, and the planning of the facilities to have access to information.

  1. Implementation of the action.
  2. The evaluation.
  3. The revision of the general plan for its improvement.

 

Research phases

Initial problem identification. Being aware of the lack of communication of personal and social values that has existed on behalf of the trainers and people working in football education, the possibility of acting on this field was proposed, in order to change and improve the educational practice.

Problem diagnostic. Once the problem was identified, and before carrying out the Educational Intervention, it was necessary to make a description or explanation of where exactly in the current situation of football education there had be an intervention, to obtain evidence that served as a starting point for the investigation. For this purpose, a case study will be made concerning football coaches from five different continents (100 teams) so as to know their profile and personal interests on education in values through football.

The objective of this phase is to analyse the social situation, context for the 100 countries involved and possible problems that coaches may come across, to later detect the needs regarding the educational subject, and thus, providing solutions to these problems.

Strategic action. After analysing the problem, by means of a survey given to 1,000 football educators from 100 different countries, an Intervention Programme was created to respond to the methodological problem, as well as a manual of fair play and sportsmanship for football coaches due to a lack of specialised football education tools.

In addition, it is intended to train the coaches of the experimental group that participated in the Intervention by putting the Model into practice. The manual consists of two parts:

  1. The first part, of a theoretical nature, defining Fair Play, Sportsmanship is, the role of the coach-educator, the role of parents, and educational competition.
  1. The second part, of a practical nature, collects different techniques and teaching strategies toeducate values through football.

What is a football training programme?

A programme is “any systematic course of action for the achievement of a goal or set of objectives in football training”. A football training programme must include and include (as well as the main body of content), the academic approach linked to the goals and objectives, the means and resources to achieve active andengaging learning (motivation, methodology,  didactic resources, activities and materials, etc.) and the evaluation.

 

How is a football training programme evaluated?

In this investigation of football training programmes we use the Marcet evaluation system defined as a systematic process, designed intentionally and technically, from gathering rigorous information – valuable, valid and reliable –, aimed at assessing the quality and achievements of a programme, as a basis for further decision-making to improve both the programme and the staff involved (coaches, managers, parents and players).

  • The assessment based on criteria and references specified beforehand (issuance of valuejudgments).
  • Decision making to promote the necessary improvements (utilisation of the results).

This way, by evaluating the programmes, it will be determined if the programme, as it has been designed, developed and implemented, generates the expected effects taking into account:

  1. The intrinsic value, that is, the integrity and adequacy of the programme once it has been designed. Judgments about this quality will be made by Marcet’s experts on the subject based on the scientific requirements of the content and the associated football training demands.
  2. The instrumental value, that is, the adequacy of the programme according to the objectives and purposes that have been established.
  3. The comparative value, that is, the comparison between programmes of different countries. This situation can occur when the programme used so far has become obsolete and must be completely renewed.
  4. The value of idealisation, that is, the collection of data during the development of the evaluation for its continuous improvement.
  5. The decision value, that is, the decision making based on the four previous aspects, in such a way that, if these have been achieved, the decisions will be of certain guaranteed criteria and quality.

 

Training programme for football studies evaluation model

The Marcet model for evaluating football training programmes that is applied in this research incorporates the following criteria:

Know the purpose of the evaluation. This means answering the question of what we want to know about the programme and what we intend to decide with regard to the programme in question. The theoretical framework of the evaluation will be defined by these questions.

  • Substantiate if the objectives and pre-established goals have been achieved. That is, verify the effectiveness of the program.
  • Collect opinions based on the evaluation of the programme by the audiences involved. That is,consider the assessment of those involved (players, coaches, managers and parents).
  • Obtain qualified information according to which decisions about the future of the programme can be made. That is, make decisions that point towards improvement. Verify, Understand, Transform.
  • Consider the relationship between the resources used and the results achieved, both immediate and long term.

 

Criteria used for constructive judgment:

  • Effectiveness based on the quantity and quality of the objectives achieved (this can be done by evaluating the level of achievement concerning the set goals, as well as evaluating side effects or using a process that is open or objective free).
  • Efficiency, based on the relationship between the benefits (results) obtained in terms of the resources (means) used.
  • Players, based on the response it gives to the needs, interests and expectations of the players taking part (effectiveness).
  • The professionals, based on the perception of the evaluators themselves, usually due to the lack of specificity of the evaluated programme.
  • Total quality, in which we must previously define what we understand by quality of a programme both in terms of processes and results and consequently establish the criteria to make constructive judgments about said quality.

 

Evaluators’ role

The evaluator takes the position of technician who collects reliable data to help make decisions about the program.

  • Evaluators help users to observe and improve their practice by responding holistically to the demands presented by the different audiences.
  • Evaluators describe programmes taking into account the background, operations and transactions and results.
  • The collateral effects of the programme should be as sought after as the expected effects.
  • The evaluators consider the perspectives and points of view of the people involved in the programme (players, coaches, managers and parents).
  • Evaluators avoid the presentation of summary reports, presenting complete descriptions, gathering the perspectives of all interested/involved individuals.
  • Evaluators will use a variety of methods for collecting information (standardised tests are not enough).

 

Our football training programme evaluation process:

  1. Establishment of objectives.
  2. Classification of objectives..
  3. Definition of objectives in terms of behavior: operational objectives.
  4. Establishment of situations and conditions according to which the achievement of the objectivescan be demonstrated.
  5. Explanation of strategy purpose to the highest ranking personnel in each investigated situation.
  6. Development of the appropriate technical measures.
  7. Data collection of the evaluated players.
  8. Comparison of the data with the behavioural objectives.

 

Advantages of this Marcet process

  1. We demand the operationalization of all the objectives, which is very difficult if not impossible in many situations.
  2. We consider the evaluation as a terminal process, which, accompanying the previous point, makes it an evaluation with a summative function.
  3. It takes into account collateral, secondary or unexpected effects and it is well known that these are sometimes as important or more than the pre-established ones.
  4. The student’s performance is taken as a criterion for the success or failure of the programme
  5. It has a holistic nature and takes into account the context in which it is developed.
  6. It is more concerned with description and interpretation than measurement and prediction.
  7. It is oriented to the study of processes rather than products.
  8. It develops under natural conditions and not under experimental conditions.
  9. Interviews and observations are used as the main methods for the collection of information.
  10. Flexible and emerging designs are used that are accommodated with the development of the action.
  11. Evaluators choosing methods that refuse or deny investigation are rejected.
  12. The perspectives of those involved should be understood without manipulating the process.
  13. The values and rights of the informants are recognised.
  14. It is ensured that those evaluated feel that their participation in the evaluation has mobilised their thought and that their understanding has developed.
  15. The context (material, psychological and social) of the learning process and the educational system (the aggregate elements that compose a coherent plan that, when applied, suffers changed due to the medium, players and trainers) is considered.

The search for victory at any cost in sport comes into contact with the problem that is violence; the opinion that genuine sport consists of winning has spurred on a threat to the concept of FairPlay down to the, ever more frequent, search for victory. There is a tendency to pose defeat as a failure. However, in football education, we don’t say “earned or lost”, but rather “earned or learned”. Unfortunately, this idea is not very widespread.

The imitation of the professional standard by children’s football has led many coaches, parents, spectators and managers to reproduce attitudes and behaviours typical of professional football such as insulting the referee, pressuring athletes, fighting with spectators of the opposing team or dismissing coaches for not meeting expectations.

Football is one of the least educated sports and probably the most influenced by the professional paradigm. Therefore, a unique opportunity to use an attractive sport for children and young people to promote values, attitudes and positive behaviours derived from the practice of sports in football is being lost.

Un entrenador Marcet habla a un alumno durante una sesión técnico-táctica.
A Marcet trainer talks to a player during a technical football session.

This interest in a more educational sport is not exclusively academic, but has been shared in recent years with different official bodies of the sport, educators and parents alike. Football, if it wants to be truly educational, cannot be detached from ethics and morality, them being key ingredients of the child’s integral upbringing.

Given the need to work didactically with young footballers, the great interest that the sport raises in children, and taking into account the undeniable social importance that has been acquired in recent years, it is necessary to conduct scientific investigative education with children and young players from as many places as possible.

To carry out this very project it was necessary, previously, to solve the problem that is the lack of specific tools for the educating of values through football. To this end, an Intervention Model was developed to educate children and young people through football and a Manual of fair play and sportsmanship was prepared for coaches: instruments that were specifically developed for this research.

 

Research hypothesis and objectives

Study of educational football trainers in a hundred countries in five continents.

The objectives of this first level of research are:

  1. To describe the profile of the football education coach in each of the participating countries.
  2. To analyse how the formative football coach in each country worked on education in values.
  3. To determine the interest that the educational football coach of each country has for education in values through football.

 

Regarding the first level of research, the following hypothesis were established:

-HYPOTHESIS 1: Educational football coaches do not work on values through football due to their ignorance of the subject, and the lack of specific practical tools.

-HYPOTHESIS 2: Coaches are not interested in the organisation of courses on education in values, nor do they give importance to the preparation of manuals on education in values.

 

Intervention model for the education of values in young people through football

The main objective of the Intervention Model is to design an Intervention Model to educate children and young people through football; itsimplementation, by training coaches and the subsequent verification of its effectiveness.

The following were established as secondary objectives of the Intervention Model:

  1. To analyse the differences in the field of values, in the attitudinal field and in the behavioral field, between the control group and the experimental group, after the application of the Intervention Program to educate values through football.
  2. To analyse the differences in the field of values, attitudinal and behavioral, of the experimental group among its age categories, after the application of the Intervention Model.
  3. To analyse the effectiveness of the Intervention Program from the point of view of the coaches who carried it out.
  4. To prepare a final Intervention Model to educate values through football, where all the modifications and significant adaptations acquired through the different applied research techniques are collected.

The hypothesis raised in relation to the second level of research are:

-HYPOTHESIS 3: After the application of the Intervention Model, football players submitted to the program (experimental group) will present a significant positive change in the structure of their values towards fair play in comparison to the control group.

-HYPOTHESIS 4: After the application of the Intervention Program, the players of the experimental group will present significant positive changes in their attitudes towards fair play in comparison to the control group.

-HYPOTHESIS 5: After the application of the Intervention Model, the experimental group will present significant positive changes in the behavioural field in comparison to the control group.

-HYPOTHESIS 6: Football players of lower age categories will obtain better scores towards fair play, than the older categories, in the field of values, in the attitudinal sphere, and in the behavioural field.

The strong media presence of professional football has led many coaches, parents and managers to reproduce attitudes and behaviours present in mainstream football’s corrupt model, in children’s football. This imitation is translated every Sunday to insults to the referees, psychological pressure on children, fights between spectators and cessation of coaches for not meeting the proposed objectives, none other than winning at all costs, regardless of any pedagogical consideration at all.

Aware of the lack of conveyance of values that still exists in grassroots football, Marcet intends to act scientifically with his research in order to change and improve this educational practice. So that everyone’s favourite sport continues to be such not only in terms of television audience but also of the social and personal formation.

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