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Sport research uses magic of Disney to encourage girls to play football


A major youth sport programme based on Leeds Beckett University research has been launched by UEFA.

Girls kicking footballs with Disney characters at the launch of Playmakers The Playmakers scheme, which will include coaching sessions inspired by films and characters from Disney, has been designed for girls aged five to eight.

Developed on the back of extensive research carried out by the university’s Carnegie School of Sport on behalf of Europe’s governing body UEFA, it aims to double participation in women’s football across the continent by 2024.

Sergio Lara-Bercial, a reader at the Carnegie School of Sport, led the research, which examined what motivates young girls’ participation in sport and looked to identify the best coaching practices.

He said: “We found that in general, girls are motivated by environments in which fun, learning and teamwork are prioritised over competition or winning.

“This is particularly for girls new to football or with no special predisposition for sport. We also found that the creative element of using storytelling was a catalyst for enjoyment and learning.

“We are delighted to have had the chance to contribute to the research underpinning the development of the Playmakers programme.

“The work done for UEFA is the culmination of a strong research strand that has looked into youth sport in general, and girls’ participation in particular.

“The sport coaching research centre at Leeds Beckett University is renowned globally for its focus on improving the experience and outcomes for sport participants at all levels.

“This includes our iCoachKids programme – which is helping to improve youth sport worldwide – and our work the FA and UEFA, which is influencing the development of girls and women’s football on a global scale.”

The university research found that 84% of girls under the age of 17 were not meeting the World Health Organisation minimum activity guidelines.

Establishing a knowledge transfer partnership with the Football Association, the report concluded that there were many positive benefits to play-based education.

The scheme will initially launch in seven European countries this spring before rolling out across the rest of continent.

The first curriculum is a 10-week session inspired by Incredibles 2 characters Violet Parr and Elastigirl. It promises to "create an environment where imaginations can run wild as an iconic Disney story is told through movement and play".

The programme is part of UEFA's Time for Action strategy, which started last year and runs until 2024 with the stated intention of doubling female participation in football.
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