Girls across the Republic of Ireland are being encouraged to kickstart a lifelong love of football through a ground-breaking Playmakers football programme from UEFA and Disney.
Using Disney’s world-renowned storytelling and inspired by academic research showing the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up sport, Playmakers aims to increase the proportion of girls meeting the World Health Organization’s minimum standards for physical activity – currently, just 16% (see WHO report).
Targeting 5-8 year-old girls not currently playing football, The Football Association of Ireland is joining 22 other UEFA national associations in committing to roll out
Playmakers through schools, clubs and local communities. More associations are expected to introduce the programme in the coming years.
Movement, teamwork, imagination
Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmaker’s ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of billion-dollar global box office smash hits like Disney’s Frozen II and Disney and Pixar’s Incredibles 2. Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl and Elsa and Anna, bringing the films’ action scenes to life through movement, teamwork and their imagination.
FAI CEO Jonathan Hill said: “The growth in women’s and girls’ football in Ireland has been phenomenal in recent times and we are delighted to be part of this Playmakers initiative undertaken by UEFA and Disney which will be a major asset for us as we continue to foster that growth. We are delighted that this programme is aimed at girls aged 5-8 who have yet to play football as we are truly committed to offering that age group, and all girls, the opportunity to play our game in a fun and friendly environment.
“The Incredibles initiative by Disney, with the support of UEFA, will offer our young girls the opportunity to enjoy top class coaching with a story-led approach in a collaborative and non-competitive environment. We look forward to rolling out these Playmaker sessions in conjunction with UEFA and Disney across Ireland in 2021.”
As Playmakers rolls out across Europe, new Disney storytelling will be added to the programme.
Creating an environment for girls to flourish
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.
Trish Long, Vice President and General Manager, The Walt Disney Company, Ireland, 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 girls football programme and our partners in Ireland - the FAI - we will encourage more and more girls to get active, build their confidence and participate in playing football, all in an environment that has been specifically designed for them.”
UEFA-funded research into play-based learning
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.
The programme is also the result of a knowledge-transfer partnership with the English Football Association (FA), who are currently running the “Shooting Stars” programme in partnership with Disney.
3️⃣0️⃣ Grassroots clubs nationwide will have great fun rolling out the UEFA Disney Playmakers programme
By using storytelling to inspire, girls 5-8 can be introduced to football in a fun environment and develop life skills along the way 📖 + ⚽️#UEFAPlaymakers pic.twitter.com/kAxBUTO9Ib
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) August 29, 2021
Time for Action
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.
“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,” said Nadine Kessler, UEFA Chief of Women’s Football.
“It is UEFA’s duty as European football’s governing body to empower girls to play the game,” added UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. “Through this partnership with Disney, we will open up football to an audience not yet engaged with our sport.”
𝐇𝐄𝐑𝐄 𝐂𝐎𝐌𝐄 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐆𝐈𝐑𝐋𝐒!
Fantastic to launch UEFA @Disney 𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘳𝘴 programme ⚽️
Using positive role of storytelling to help girls 5-8 take up sport, 3️⃣0️⃣ clubs nationwide will be involved
Find out more 👉 https://t.co/35ONLWkcJL#UEFAPlaymakers pic.twitter.com/lTpJ6LfFlA
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) August 27, 2021
Disney’s Healthy Living Commitment
Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Disney has a long-standing Healthy Living Commitment, using its storytelling to get families more active and working to educate and inspire children about healthy eating. This has led to a variety of partnerships in different countries on inspirational campaigns, such as Public Health England’s “10 Minute Shake Up” which inspired two million kids to “get active” and register more than 100 million extra minutes of physical activity.
In Poland, Disney launched its successful #GetMovingWithDisneyJunior initiative, a campaign spearheaded by local sporting champions, which reached more than 30,000 youngsters. The campaign involved the creation of more than 30 films, which featured children exercising alongside Disney Junior characters.
— Coach David Baird (@CoachDavidBaird) August 24, 2021
For further information on Playmakers visit http://www.uefa.com/playmakers .