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David Turner
Children Developing Mindsets

Creativity in Coaching Children

UK Coaching's Children's Lead David Turner explains why it is crucial to encourage creativity when coaching children

At UK Coaching we talk a lot about the ‘C’ System of coaching and it’s something we’re genuinely passionate about! But what on earth does it mean?

Put simply, it is our model for explaining the holistic development of children through sport by developing their ‘Character, Competence, Confidence, Connection, Contribution and Creativity’.

We believe that coaching children is about a lot more than winning under U/11s leagues and the result on any given weekend. Now don’t get me wrong, winning is brilliant, and so is the ability to learn lessons from defeat.

However, I believe that if you truly want to keep children playing sport into adulthood, then you need to make sport about more than just the winning. That is why we feel the ‘C’ system can enrich a child’s sporting experience.


So let’s talk about ‘Creativity’. I think it’s one of the most fascinating ‘Cs’. Why? Well because it’s one of those fantastic things in life where children can and often will be better at it than adults!

UK Coaching’s Graham Ross and the legendary coaching children expert David Haskins recently teamed up to work with the Football Association to develop a fantastic ‘Creativity in Football’ resource. 

There are several definitions for Creativity, but this new resource suggests that the key elements of creativity are:

  • Generating or recognising ideas and alternatives
  • Useful in solving problems
  • Seeing and acting on new relationships
  • Turning new and imaginative ideas into reality
  • Thinking then producing

Ross and Haskins go on to break down creativity in two more ways, firstly through the following model:

  • Skill: to perform the creative thought
  • Spatial awareness: to understand the space required to produce the skill
  • Sensing: the ability to see and feel what is going on
  • Social awareness: to understand whether the others around need to be involved or not
  • Self-awareness: to understand own personality, strengths, weaknesses and behaviours

Then secondly using an American system that categorises creative players into three groups:

  1. Building players. This type of player will have good spatial awareness and recognise the space in which a team can make progress.
  2. Organising players. This type of player will help others perform at their best. They will have enhanced personal and social awareness, and understand how others play, how fast they move and where they like to receive the ball.
  3. Soloing players. This is probably the old model of creativity – players who have a spark of genius and produce something all on their own.

Ross and Haskins go into further detail, by breaking down these categories even further.

Building players
Play designer Creates situations for others where they can do their best work
Includer Knows others’ needs and looks after them
Organising players
Director   Sparks the creative talents of others
Collaborator/ cross-pollinator Helps bring things together, and leads from the middle
Soloing Players
Hurdler/experimenter   Develops a knack for overcoming challenges and keeps trying new things
Weakness finder  Has a high level of intelligence, memory and strategic ability
Threshold breaker Has the high level of skills necessary to be able to react during an important part of the game or in key space on the pitch

How can we promote and develop these characteristics?

Well the emphasis appears to be on the informal, unstructured play. Is this more evidence that U/11s leagues aren't the be all and end all for player development?

Ross and Haskins conclude the resource by offering some key points to help coaches ensure they can develop the appropriate scenarios and environment for children to flourish creatively.

And here is the best part – it’s available on UK Coaching.

Learn More

Gain a full understanding of the 'C' system and how to include it in your coaching sessions by attending UK Coaching's workshop Coaching Children 5-12: The Next Generation.


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David Turner