Europe’s topflight soccer league, the UEFA, and Disney have teamed up to develop a ground-breaking football programme that uses Disney’s world-renowned storytelling to encourage more young girls to exercise regularly and kickstart a lifelong love of football.
Playmakers is inspired by academic research showing the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up sport and also aims to increase the proportion of girls meeting the World Health Organization’s minimum standards for physical activity – currently, just 16%.
Targeting 5-8 year-old girls not currently playing football, seven UEFA national associations –Scotland, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Romania, and Serbia – will roll out Playmakers through schools, clubs and local communities.
Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmakers ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of Disney and Pixar’s billion-dollar global box office smash hit, Incredibles 2.
Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl, Violet, Mr Incredible and Dash, bringing the film’s action scenes to life through movement, teamwork and their imagination.
“If you’re going to teach football through the power of storytelling and play, you have to do it with the best stories and characters in the world, and Disney is the perfect partner for this,” UEFA Head of Women’s Football, Nadine Kessler, said.
“By taking that Disney magic, and implementing the first-ever pan-European girls’ grassroots football programme, we will give any girl the best possible opportunity to fall in love with football.”
In its early sessions, Playmakers focuses on building girls’ confidence in their movement, encouraging creative thinking and communicating easily with their friends.
Later sessions introduce girls to basic football skills, but the programme continues to put the emphasis on making sport fun.
The play-based learning at the heart of Playmakers’ unique approach follows a literary review by Leeds’ Beckett University in England, which was commissioned by UEFA.
The review assessed academic research into what motivates young girls to participate in sports, identifying best practice coaching methods to create a safe learning environment.
Its findings put particular emphasis on the benefits of play-based education.
Playmakers represents a first step toward achieving one of the main goals of “Time for Action” the UEFA Women’s Football Strategy – to double girls’ and women’s participation in football by 2024.
“It is UEFA’s duty as European football’s governing body to empower girls to play the game,” UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin, said.
“Through this partnership with Disney, we will open up football to an audience not yet engaged with our sport.”
Nicole Morse, Disney EMEA’s Vice President of Integrated Marketing, said: “This brilliant Playmakers initiative is another great example of Disney’s long-term commitment to help future generations lead healthier lifestyles.
“By using our much-loved characters and stories as a force for good, we can really make a difference and inspire families and children to be more active.
“So we’re very proud that by partnering with UEFA on the first pan-European girl’s football programme, we will encourage more and more girls across the region to get active, build their confidence and participate in playing football, all in an environment that has been specifically designed for them.”