UEFA, the European governing body for football, and Disney have teamed up to develop a ground-breaking football program for increasing girls’ participation in the sport.
The program will use Disney’s world-renowned storytelling to encourage more young girls to exercise regularly and kick start a lifelong love of football.
Inspired by academic research showing the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up the sport, Playmakers 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. More associations are expected to introduce the program later in the year, states a UEFA report.
Unlike traditional football programs, each of Playmaker’s ten initial training sessions follows 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,” said Nadine Kessler, UEFA Head of Women’s Football.
“By taking that Disney magic, and implementing the first-ever pan-European girls’ grassroots football program, we will give any girl the best possible opportunity to fall in love with football.”
As Playmakers rolls out across Europe, new Disney storytelling will be added to the program.
“As a playmaker on the pitch, you have all the possibilities to shape the game around you, to be creative from so many different perspectives,” said Kessler.
“We want girls to have the same feeling and be encouraged to create their own game and make their own decisions. This is exactly what this program is about – creating an environment for all girls to flourish and develop, whether that be fundamental movement skills, football basics or life skills and values. We truly believe that this unique program can be the spark for a more active generation of football-loving girls.”
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 program is also the result of a knowledge-transfer partnership with the English Football Association (FA), who is currently running the “Shooting Stars” program in partnership with Disney.
Playmakers represent 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,” added UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, “Through this partnership with Disney, we will open up football to an audience not yet engaged with our sport.”
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 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.
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 program, 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.”