On September 27 to 28, 2023, in Pachuca, Mexico, the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) organized a conference to adopt a new model for youth football development. Among the event speakers, Sport for Life CEO Richard Way shared a visionary approach that promises to reshape the landscape of youth football development.
Way’s presentation centred on reimagining youth football development for children aged 2 to 12. He tackled a series of critical questions, including:
- when children should start playing football vs focusing on developing physical literacy,
- what skills they should develop,
- considerations regarding gender inclusivity, and
- age-appropriate learning objectives and rule adaptations for different age groups.
Way also delved into the qualities sought by coaches and scouts in young players, like:
- the ideal age for competitive stages,
- strategies to boost enjoyment and participation, and
- the role of parents, coaches, referees, and educational institutions in nurturing young players.
It was Sport for Life’s concept of the ‘pyramid to the rectangle’ that resonated with attendees (LTD 3.0 resource). Way emphasized that these two figures represent distinct philosophies in athlete development. The pyramid model, prevalent from the 1960s, systematically told children they were not good enough until a national team was selected. In contrast, the rectangle represents an inclusive framework that values and supports athletes at every stage of their sport and physical activity journey throughout their lifespan.
Sport for Life’s innovative vision promises a brighter future for the football world, one that cherishes and empowers young participants throughout their lives. As the rectangle takes centre stage, the sport has started on a new path that emphasizes the importance of physical literacy evolution in fostering a more inclusive and vibrant footballing community!
Other notable panellists at the conference included prominent figures from the world of football, such as:
- Ivar Sisniega – President of FMF (Mexican Football Federation)
- Jesús Martínez – President of Grupo Pachuca
- Jason Devos – Canadian Soccer Association
- Andrés Lillini – FMF Director of Youth National Football Teams
- Dave Reeve – English Football Association representative
- Raúl Peláez – CEO of Ailite Sports Intelligence, formerly FC Barcelona
These panellists, among many others, contributed to the conference’s meaningful discussions and innovative ideas to reshape youth football development.
The two-day conference has sparked a new era in Mexican youth football development. The focus has shifted from exclusivity to inclusivity, nurturing young players regardless of their stage in the journey.
For information on the conference, visit the Mexican Football Federations blogs on Day 1 and Day 2. You can also check out the Mexican Football Federation X account @FMF to see some content from the conference!