Your goal is to get everyone involved

18th October 1996 at 01:00
Football is the beautiful game - it can be used to teach everything in the curriculum. So organise a tournament. Ted Wragg shows how. Roll up, roll up for the greatest show on Earth. There is nothing to beat a decent football tournament, like Euro 96 or the World Cup, for making millions of people deliriously happy. Yes, I know, there are also millions of people who are deliriously miserable, but that is where education comes in.

The first time I ran a fully-fledged football tournament for a primary class was several years ago. I was in a school seeing a deputy head I knew. She was a wonderful teacher of almost every subject in the curriculum, except one.

That was football. As a football fanatic, qualified referee and team coach, I watched in despair. Young children milled all over, eagerly chasing a ball which usually got buried beneath a ruck of them. She stood benignly on the sideline with her whistle.

"I just blow the whistle for safety reasons", she explained. "I don't know a thing about football, but they all love it". So I promised to organise a Great Footie Tournament for her class, and we all enjoyed every second of it. Since then I have organised them for six- up to eleven-year-olds.

It is not difficult to make the Great Footie Tournament a superb cross-curricular theme, with a high degree of interest from pupils. I sometimes feel uneasy when people try to stretch a topic to cover every subject in the national curriculum, as some of the links are a bit tenuous, but it is amazing how much schoolwork the Great Footie Tournament can generate, not just in PE, but in technology, maths, English, art and personal and social education.

The starting point is PE and what the national curriculum, at key stage 1, calls "simple competitive games, including how to play them as individuals and, when ready, in pairs and in small groups". By key stage 2 this has become "to understand and play small sided games and simplified versions of recognised competitive team and individual games". The ideas described here need modifying, according to the age group involved.

Announce well in advance that on a date towards the end of term there will be a Great Footie Tournament. Everybody will take part and they will be doing a lot more than just playing football. "You will all love it, even if you're not at the moment mad keen on football" is the message.

Let people know from the beginning how much they are going to learn and enjoy doing, including whichever of the following are possibilities: *playing football in teams wearing coloured bibs *making the bibs and numbering them *writing football reports andor making a video *drawingpainting pictures and taking photos *makinghaving simple food and drinks after the tournament is over *keeping scores and drawing up league tables *getting a certificate you can take home *announcing the results and reporting the tournament in assembly *singing a few (clean) football songs *making a programme with the names of the teams and their members and spaces to keep the scores *doing some interesting "real life" maths *discovering the secrets of the universe (we'd better stop here before it gets silly) Depending on the size and age of the class, teams are selected (first minefield, I prefer a judicious mixture of "friends" and random assignment). Each team chooses a name (not the name of the nearest professional club, otherwise they all fall out about who can use it), and a lot of fun can be had coming up with "Giant Peach" or "Doncaster Dragons".

There was a time when football was not popular with girls, but there was huge interest in Euro 96 among girls and women, and many girls are better players than boys at primary age. In any case, the Great Footie Tournament offers more than just a game of football.

If there are, say, 30 children, then they could be in six teams of five. This means a total of 15 games (maths problem one: work out why. It's 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 15).

Usually five or six minutes is enough for each game, and it is only necessary to change ends at half time if there is some advantage in kicking one way. It is best if there are two small pitches available so two games can be played at the same time, and not too many pupils are sitting out, though they do need a breather between games.

Particularly with younger children there are often a lot of 0 - 0 draws, so I usually let each team take one penalty. If this doesn't produce a goal, try two penalties each, but no more.

I usually give the class, particularly older pupils, a lot of responsibility for organisation. There are plenty of things pupils can be asked to do when they are not actually playing. For example, if two teams are playing and the third is watching, the non-players can, if old enough, try the following, swapping roles during the tournament, so everyone tries everything: *one keeps score and fills in a master score sheet *one keeps time (no cheating to help friends!) *three act as referee and linesmen (now called "assistant referees"), with the teacher as "tournament referee" and final authority.

At the end the league table is completed. Everyone gets a drink and a sandwich. Certificates are presented. I usually get them drawn up in advance and write the children's names in at the end of the tournament myself, rather than having the pupils do it. It makes it more "official". Some teachers are sensitive about "winners" and "losers", but in competitive sports, children need to learn how to win and be generous, or lose and be gracious.

The children know in advance that they will all win a "good team player" certificate if they enter into the spirit and this will only be withheld if someone misbehaves and spoils it for others, something I have never yet had to do.

If you organise it thoroughly and enthuse all the children, I guarantee many will remember the Great Footie Tournament well into old age.

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