McDonald’s First Kicks (4-6 years)

Early engagement for players as young as 4 years old into the game helps allow the children to opportunity to discover the game, provide for learning basic fundamental movement skills and create positive football experiences.


  • No competitive game
  • Children play together informally to meet the personal/emotional needs of the youngsters
  • Lots of chances to score goals and enjoy mini-challenges
  • Encourage participation in a variety of additional activities to develop physical literacy (e.g. running, jumping, throwing, etc)
  • Parents and game leaders bring out the fun of football by guiding and supporting their children to understand the basic rules of first kicks football

Click here for an example of a training session for the McDonald’s First Kicks category.


McDonald’s Fun Football (7-8 years)

At this age, football should be primarily played in a playful environment that emphasises self-discovery. This continuity into early engagement develops crucial factors for the future of the players such as the love for the game, game intelligence and physical literacy.

Built on a common fundamental skills base, all players can be empowered to progress back and forth between the different pathways at a later stage. Players are more aware of the rules of the game and start to recognise the opportunities to play with and for each other. They are able to develop basic football techniques and during training can be exposed to games that have specific technical outcomes such as developing shooting techniques under pressure by an opponent.

It is the role of parents and game leaders to support their understanding by enabling all players the opportunity to play without restrictions and too much instruction.


  • Emphasise playing games with minimal interference from game leaders and parents
  • Favour as many opportunities as possible to play football – ‘let the game be the teacher’
  • Offer activities where excitement and enjoyment are the main objectives and extrinsic factors such as winning are not emphasised
  • The recommended number of hours in a formal environment is 2-3 per week across a 20-25 week season
  • Football activities outside the formal environment (Fun Football Centres and Holiday programmes) along with others sporting activities should be encouraged to reinforce physical literacy and initial game understanding.
  • Let the player’s play with minimum restrictions and little instruction – ‘keep it simple’
  • Keep the adult pressures of winning out of fun football

Click here for an example of a training session for the McDonald’s Fun Football category.


McDonald’s Mini Football (9-12 years)

These ages are the skill hungry years. Motivationally, children are geared to learn skills at this time, providing an ideal opportunity for building football-specific skills into fundamental movement ability. These golden years of player development require coaches to work on cementing individual technical excellence so that well rounded and technically proficient players are ready to make the step to youth football and the 11v11 game. Pitch sizes and player numbers increase with the progression in the small-sided game's concept from 7v7 to 9v9 Mini Football. Players are cognitively more capable of understanding how to play more effectively with their teammates to either score or prevent goals. At this stage, basic positions within simple team structures are introduced to develop a basic tactical understanding of the game.  Pre-selection or initial talent identification of gifted and committed players is conducted as players are teamed up with others of similar ability.


  • Focus during this period should still be around deliberate play with key opportunities to refine technical skills and develop further game intelligence with an increased number of teammates (5v5, 7v7 to 9v9)
  • Develop confidence as a vital ingredient for future participation and performance by fostering and reinforcing the achievement of basic goals for each player
  • The recommended number of hours in a formal environment is 3-4 per week across a 20-25 week season. For the most talented and willing players, it is recommended that 4-6 hours per week are accumulated across a 40 week season
  • Football activities outside the formal environment and other sporting activities are encouraged to reinforce physical literacy and game intelligence
  • Leagues are introduced at this stage, however, emphasis is on learning opportunities and fun
  • Speed and agility are the key physical qualities to develop in every training session


What are the benefits of girls only leagues?


Firstly it ensures that females have a clear pathway through their footballing lives and are aware of the amazing opportunities female football can create for them. Many New Zealand female footballers are living this dream, having competed at the Olympics, at Word Cups, playing professionally overseas, achieving top university scholarships or closer to home representing the Central region playing for our National Women’s League, Federation Talent Centre squads or Federation league Football with their local club.


Secondly, long term it will increase the number of females playing football within our federation and also improve the standard of the female game within our region. The girls will be playing in an environment that better meets the physical and social needs, where they will get more touches on the ball which will increase their development compared to a male dominated environment.


Thirdly, it has been shown throughout federations as well as other codes that when female players play in all female environments that their enjoyment increases leading to a higher percentage of players staying involved in Football in the future.


Finally, it will be an effective tool used by both clubs and Central Football to identify talented girls for skill Centre and Federation Talent Centre programmes. It will now be possible for coaches/scouts to identify then nominate deserving players for these programmes as in the past players have been compared against boys and missed.