How can we develop creative players is a question that is always asked to us at Football DNA. Creativity is “the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative”. Creativity is something that we are all born with. However, studies have shown that it is something that we can be stripped off as well. In 1968 research study was conducted by George Land to test the creativity of children aged between three-to-five year. This same test he devised for NASA to test creativity and help select innovative engineers and scientists. Due to the success he decided to use this same test and test it on children. Following on from the initial tests he then re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age. The results he found below were fascinating:
  • 5 year olds: 98%
  • 10 year olds: 30%
  • 15 year olds: 12%
  • Same test given to 280,000 adults: 2%

“What we have concluded,” wrote Land, “is that non-creative behavior is learned.
(Source: George Land and Beth Jarman, Breaking Point and Beyond. San Francisco: HarperBusiness, 1993)

So the conclusion of this study is: that we may be limiting the potential in children. Therefore when children join a structured environment so early and begin to be coached, whilst we may feel that we are helping them develop, actually at the same time we could be potentially limiting their ability to be creative. In this blog I am going to explore ways in which you can create an environment to enhance allow children to flourish showing their creativity applying it to football.

Can creativity be taught?

Whilst every individual is born with the license to be creative it is also true that creativity can be supported and developed as well. The model below creative by T.M Amabile, highlights three components of creativity and how they can be supported and developed. When applying this same model to football, ‘expertise’ is often something we don’t associate with children nor most participants aside from high level elite performers. However, our role as coaches is to support players with building and developing their knowledge by creating a ‘positive learning environment’ where they can flourish and be intrigued by learning. Likewise, we need to support players in being able to physically and technically have the foundations to express through movements with and without the ball to practically be able to apply their ideas in a game based environment.

How Coaches Can Support Creativity

In order to develop creative thinking, our coaching session should provoke problems for the players to solve, ignite their imagination and give them a creative-license. There is a number of factors that may impact this from the way we work in a coaching environment from how we communicate to how we design practices. Therefore, to create an optimum environment for the players it’s vital that we do not apply pressure or solve the problems for them when we are working with them.

Question & Answer and Guided Discovery are two coaching styles that will entice players into showing and sharing the problems that they see and also how they will solve them. In addition, providing challenges and constraints for our players will also put hurdles in front of them for them to explore and find ways around too. Ultimately we need to develop creative-thinking players that are willing to take risks, are independent and also find new ways to solve problems differently to others.


Motivation is devised into two aspects; intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is down to desire: the motivation to complete a task and solve a problem due to it being interesting, challenging and beneficial to that player. This type of motivation in football may be a simple as a player wanting to win a game or a trophy, or perform a skill that no-one else can. Therefore, to allow children to be creative we must continually stretch and challenge them by showing them new ideas and skills, as well as continually provide them with challenging tasks for them to problem solve. The environment we create as coach, will enable children to flourish and find new ways of showing and sharing ways in which they can perform skills, share and show their knowledge and solve problems that are placed in front of them.

Seven Ways to Foster Your Creativity and Spark Innovation

Creative coaches, create creative players: 

In order for us to develop creative players, we must be creative ourselves. Unlocking our creativity can be a challenge and this is something that we should look find a way of enhancing when coaching.
Ways that you may look to apply this could be:
– Can we different ways of challenging players?
– Can we deliver different types of practices that will challenge the players?
– Are you able to make a fun and varied environment?
Some tips for answering the above thoughts can be found here:
As coaches, we have to find our own way of solving problems as well as working with players. T.M. Amabile’s model, isn’t one that solely needs to be applied to the players but also to us as well. Building our knowledge will enhance our ability to be creative. Ultimately the motivation should be our own personal development as well as seeing the improvement and development in our players.
There has never been a more important time than now to think outside the box.
To conclude, here are some key points that you may want to think about when aiming to develop creative players:
  •  Provide players with the freedom to make their own decisions (work with all parties i.e. parents, players and staff)
  •  Provide them with problems to solve; don’t solve it for them
  •  Give them the tools that they need to be able to express their creativity
  •  Give players the opportunity to practice and learn through play
  •  Create a varied, fun and pressure free coaching environment
  •  As coaches, unlock our own creativity to enable players to be creative