Soccer and 21st Century Skills


The term “21st-century skills” is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills lists three types:

Learning Skills

  • Critical Thinking
  • Creative Thinking
  • Collaborating
  • Communicating

Literacy Skills

  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Technology Literacy

Life Skills

  • Flexibility
  • Initiative
  • Social Skills
  • Productivity
  • Leadership

Notwithstanding the literacy skills, it is my belief that playing soccer contributes to 21st-century skills in children (and adults). Here is why:

  • Soccer is a dynamic team game in which players must collaborate with each other in order to be successful. Think about all of the actions and activities associated with soccer that requires kids to work together to solve a problem- there are potentially hundreds of opportunities to collaborate in things small and big every game and practice. For example:
    • Picking teams
    • Who gets to go first
    • Who plays where and why
    • Negotiating with the coach about the rules of a particular game
  • Playing soccer forces players to find solutions to problems and act on them instantly. Developmentally speaking, soccer players’ Executive Functioning gets a workout at every practice and game. According to the NCLD, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.” Think about just some of the decisions a player has to make on the field:
    •  Choosing the correct surface of the foot (or body) to trap a ball
    • Whether to run forward, left, right, backwards or stand still
    • Whether to sprint, jog, walk, or a combination of the three
    • Whether to pass or dribble or shoot
    • What type of pass, dribble, or shot, etc. should be employed

As coaches and parents, we want to allow our kids to play the game, make their own decisions, and support them in those decisions, even if they fail…especially when they fail. The workplace of the future (even now) will, among other things, require your sons and daughters to be effective communicators, speedy decision makers, and require the ability to collaborate with others. Play soccer!

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