Why recreational football is important for developing in the game

We Make Footballers
05 April 2024


Since England Women became European champions in 2022, the Lionesses have become household names and the nation has learnt all about their individual journeys to the top of the sport. What seems to link them all? Playing football recreationally.

Take Alessia Russo, for example. She fell in love with football at local Kent club Bearsted as a child, spending her Sundays playing football with girls and boys and then watching others train. 

Or how about Ella Toone? One of the most recognisable and popular Lionesses credits Astley & Tyldesley Junior Football Club for the fun environment they created which took her from muddy fields in Lancashire to scoring in front of 90,000 at Wembley.

The lesson from the Lionesses is that playing football for fun contributed hugely to them making it professionally. 

It is echoed by other stars from across the world, including Wayne Rooney mastering his craft on the streets of Croxteth, Liverpool and Lionel Messi doing likewise 6,800 miles away in Rosario, Argentina.

Here are some of the reasons why playing football recreationally is important for developing in the game.

Instilling a love of football 

Playing football recreationally is fun and enjoyable. And when something is fun and enjoyable, it is easy to fall in love with it. 

To fall in love with football is to want to play all the time. Wanting to play all the time means more practice of skills, enhanced development and can lead to improvement in ability.

The levels reached by the likes of Russo, Toone, Rooney and Messi are testament to that. Which is why the number one aim of We Make Footballers is to deliver weekly football sessions in a fun and safe environment under the watchful eye of FA qualified coaches.

With enjoyment as a base, a love of playing football soon follows. Forming such a relationship between player and game is just the start of a lifelong bond which can lead to some pretty special places.


Improves health, fitness and physical attributes

The health and wellbeing of children in the United Kingdom is an issue of increasing concern. 

A combination of factors such as the pandemic, technology and the closure of after school sports clubs due to budget cuts means many children are not getting the weekly recommended amount of physical activity.

At its most basic level, recreational football provides children with the exercise needed to be fit and healthy. 

Looking beyond that, and regularly playing football recreationally helps evolve the physical attributes needed for developing in the game.

More time spent playing football leads to increased stamina and strength, It improves balance, speed and jumping ability.

Professional football clubs are always looking for technically gifted players. But those who combine those abilities with physical attributes will stand out even more – physical attributes which can be developed and improved through recreational football.


Developing social skills

Another attribute which is becoming increasingly valued in the professional game is social skills. 

So much so in fact that social skills make up a whole quarter of the FA Four Corner Model, the approach to coaching formulated by the governing body designed to produce well-rounded players.

We Make Footballers follow the FA Four Corner Model, meaning our academies have a strong social focus. But what exactly do we mean when we say that playing football recreationally develops social skills?

The most obvious example is through teamwork. Football teaches children the importance of putting aside personal ego or ambition and coming together to achieve a common goal.

To succeed on the football pitch, players must communicate effectively with each other. These types of interaction are priceless in a day and age when children are communicating with each other through social media and screens rather than in person.

Then there are the friendships which recreational football helps forge between children via their shared interest in the beautiful game.

Whilst players who go far in football are naturally self-driven, nobody succeeds in the sport without good social skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Playing football recreationally is important for understanding teammates, learning how to build effective friendships and relationships, and developing the social skills needed to progress in the game.


Practice makes permanent

Practice makes permanent is the ethos underpinning everything which happens at We Make Footballers. Practice makes permanent is based on the 10,000-hour rule and the belief that it takes 10,000 hours to properly master a skill.

The 10,000-hour rule comes from a study of child violin players in Germany, all of whom started playing the instrument at the age of five. Some gave up at age eight. 

Those in the research group who were categorised as elite by the age of 20 had amassed around 10,000 hours of practice each. The less able performers in contrast had 4,000 under their belts.

Football is obviously not as black and white. Natural talent comes into it. But there is no doubt that the more a child plays football, the better their technical skills will become – along with the physical attributes we have already covered.

Reaching 10,000 hours of practice is easier said than done, of course. Recreational football can help a child move closer to that figure, helping their development in the game.


We Make Footballers is the leading supplier of weekly football coaching sessions for children aged 4-12 in England. Players of all abilities are welcome, and recreational football is provided in a fun and safe environment. To find your nearest We Make Footballers academy and sign up for a free first session, please click ‘Find Your Nearest Academy’ at the top of this page.