The Influence of Culture on Sports Methodologies

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

By Marcelo Antonelli and Tiago Corradine


In recent decades, discussions about different pedagogical strategies for teaching football have grown with the advantages and disadvantages debated in a wide variety of settings. Despite this, culture is an infrequent variable in football narratives. We consider it a determining factor for methodological choices, and find it essential to identify its influence on training programs.

In this article, we will start discussions on this theme through the analysis of cross-cultural experiences, promoting reflections on a more comprehensive teaching-learning process than usual.

How Do You Decide on a Training Method? (By Marcelo Antonelli)

What determines the way you coach? The answer seems obvious and has to do with your life experiences. That is, if you took a football license, the content you had access to will likely influence your methodological choices. If you studied Physical Education and took courses in Sports Training, part of this academic background will be taken with you to the football field. The way you have been trained will also influence your choices. In addition, if you work in a club that follows a specific methodological proposal, there is likely to be a direction to follow.

But what is the weight of culture in your methodological choices? Is this culture capable of influencing other football players, such as athletes and coaching staff? These are difficult questions to answer. It may be necessary to experience different cultural experiences to form a more precise opinion on this topic.

In this sense, I grew up in Brazil playing and coaching both Futsal and Soccer. I then played Futsal in Italy for six years also spending a semester in Sweden and England. In 2006, I moved to the USA where I spent 8 years coaching on the East Coast and now 5 years coaching on the West Coast (California).

In every major geographical change, cultural change was imminent. Of course, we must be parsimonious in our cultural assumptions, as these are subjective experiences influenced by individual cultural background, producing unique ideas and actions. However, by generalizing to understand the whole, we can associate geographical changes with cultural differences.

The point that we will discuss in this article is whether cultural differences can affect football methodologies, as well as athletes' and families’ views of the training process. And, more specifically, to relate the two countries where I spent most of my life, Brazil and the USA.

A few weeks ago, Tiago Corradine, a friend who studied Sport Sciences with me at UNICAMP (a Brazilian University), sent me some pages about his experiences during four months as a youth soccer coach in the USA. While reading the material, I remembered going through very similar experiences since my arrival in the USA in 2006.

Although we had been discussing different methodologies and other pedagogical strategies for developing players and teams for years, reading his materials made it clear to me that these pedagogical discussions should be considered from a cultural perspective.

And is that important? Absolutely! After all, our pedagogical decisions have a great influence on the development of our players. The questions we are considering is what we can learn from the influence of culture and how it can affect the way we lead our teams. In this sense, let's learn a little more about Tiago Corradine's experience.

A Brazilian Experience in the United States (by Tiago Corradine)

For us Brazilians, football has a greater sense of ownership than for an American. The Brazilian is much more identified with this modality, as it is an essential part of the culture. Children get a ball as one of their first toys. They learn to kick it as they experience their first steps. All of this is very strong in Brazilian's culture. On the other hand, the USA has a vast repertoire of sports. Just check the expressive results in the Olympics and the countless championships of different modalities, which have a prominent place in the United States sports media. This is reflected in the sports culture of schools and in public spaces dedicated to sports. There are plenty of options in the USA, while in Brazil the picture is quite different.

Americans use sports as an educational medium, and the role of sport in the formation of American citizens is valued. Even without reaching the professional or Olympic level, American society encourages and values ​​sport as part of its routine. This picture is quite different in Brazil, where football is seen as a possibility for social ascension. The other modalities are not encouraged and do not gain as much visibility in the media. Considering that a significant portion of the population has little access to health, education, security and formal employment, football ends up becoming a very popular option for socioeconomic growth.

This can help us understand the importance of football in Brazilian society, as opposed to the USA, where most young people have many educational options and, consequently, can plan and create more conditions for personal and professional success. All of this goes beyond the 4 lines of the field. It is a social, political and educational project that a society builds as a nation. There are years of history, choices and consequences. It is not something that can be changed overnight. It is a process.

Although football was influenced by English society, Brazil has created a game identity that conquered the world. Other nations have also created their own style of play, such as Germany, Italy, Holland, and Argentina, but Brazilian culture had a different way to embrace this sport. The creativity that Brazilians manifest in their livelihood is present in football. The cheerful way of looking at life, despite the difficulties, is part of the Brazilian style of playing. The ethnic diversity of our population has also been incorporated into the sport. That is why the Brazilian and football form an interesting combination.

Football is the most-watched sport in the world. It has crossed borders and has become one of the most profitable businesses on the planet. In addition to being the largest culture even in the world, it has also become an excellent financial investment. American society, following this phenomenon from the outside, decided that it should participate in this opportunity and tried to add football to its sports culture. However, a change of this magnitude does not happen overnight. In addition, there are sports with strong roots in North American culture, such as football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, and other Olympic sports.

The USA exhibits its hegemony in these modalities, exporting a certain sporting pattern in the world. Football has not yet reached that power of belonging and relevance in North American society. This influences how the sport is practiced. The Brazilian plays and has fun. The North American trains soccer in a way quite different from what happens with other sports. Countless times I have witnessed children and adults having fun playing basketball on public courts, football on the lawns of the parks, and baseball in the backyards of their homes.

When reflecting on the game and the pedagogy of football, I am led to think about the freedom to play, as it is during play that we stimulate creativity, as well as relevant environmental interactions. Coaching Football is something far beyond the repetition of technical gestures. I believe that a good pedagogical approach is not one that praises and classifies a single gesture as correct, which should be imitated in an automated way without considering decision making and the countless possibilities generated by the complexity of the game. Good pedagogy is one that allows the student to experience a teaching-learning process based on freedom of exploration, making the child build his motor gesture based on the essential and general skills of the sport, which together form the basic skills of the game.

The game and its fundamentals are important themes in the teaching-learning process, but they are not the only ones. I suggest addressing content such as habits that lead to the expansion of the motor repertoire, football as a cultural manifestation, in addition to adopting strategies aimed at developing solidarity, cooperation, autonomy and creativity. Daily issues should also be addressed, as they are interconnected with our way of thinking and acting, making it possible to promote reflections on football in the realm of economics, history, politics, health, morals, ethics, media, society, etc.

The idea is to make the student a driving and transforming agent of his time, influenced by collective thinking and citizenship that helps him understand the circumstances of our society, in addition to creating conditions to live well, regardless of sport as a leisure or professional practice. In this sense, if we understand pedagogy as a reflected path that leads to knowle