Sam Bizzell came to Prague to teach English in 2012, but like many expats who harbor career aspirations outside the classroom, he couldn’t stop thinking about how to combine teaching with his primary passion, football.
“My motivations were to combine my skill set of coaching football and speaking English. I figured there was nothing like it and just wanted to give it a go,” says Bizzell.
Formerly a coach in the U.K., Bizzell had also seen how a recreational football program should be run during a coaching stint in the States. He enlisted Prague Youth Theatre founder Adam Stewart to lend expertise, launched a word-of-mouth marketing campaign, and in 2015, Prague English Football School was born.
“That first weekend at Slavia we had maybe 25 kids over four hours, starting from 3 years of age. I thought that class went terribly but the parents loved it, though I learned we needed their help with that group!” he recalls.
Since its debut four years ago, the organization now counts over 150 kids who gather to play every weekend — different times slots for different age brackets — on Saturdays in Prague 10 and Sundays in Prague 6.
“From the response, we saw that there was clearly a huge gap in the market, people responded to it brilliantly, and luckily I was the right person in the right place at the right time,” says Bizzell of Prague English Football School’s success.
But it isn’t just luck that has made the program an unequivocal success with both expats seeking a home away from home and locals who want their children to get involved in an English-speaking sports activity.
Dinah Spritzer, a Vinohrady-based mother of 7-year-old twins, says that Prague English Football School is the only sports club her children have regularly attended since joining at age 3.
“The PEFS approach is modern and based on progressive coaching techniques. It is learning through having fun. This is how sports should be taught: to engender a love of playing,” she says.
The school’s focus on developing character and sportsmanship along with ball-handling skills, its inclusiveness of children of all abilities, and confidence-boosting coaches are added benefits, says Spritzer.
“In the Czech Republic, there are very few opportunities for children to play something once a week without the pressure to be the best, and the coaching style is generally old-fashioned with lots of yelling.”
She says starting out in PEFS gave one of her sons the confidence to join a competitive Czech hockey league and has also had an impact in her kids’ lives off the field as well:
“Thanks to this program, my boys can go anywhere in the world, including our local playground, and play with complete strangers. The first time I saw it happen I thought, that is a gift Prague English Football School has given my family.”
Bizzell is supported by a staff of professional coaches — English speakers from the U.K., U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland — who are committed to not only helping kids bend it like little Beckhams but hone general social skills in a fun and supportive environment, he says.
“We care a lot more about their ability with kids and parents than their sporting knowledge. We can teach them how to coach but we can’t teach them to have an exceptional personality.”
That said, coaches are expected to live up to very high standards. “How they present themselves, their energy levels, their engagement in life is important,” says Bizzell. “We hire reliable professionals who go above and beyond each session and who are very patient and exceptional with children.”
Michael Rogers, PEFS Coach
I’m grateful to be a part of something that brings so much joy.
For coaches looking to turn a hobby into a career working with PEFS presents a great opportunity, says American Michael Rogers who is one of Prague English Football School’s longest-serving coaches.
“Everyone we work with from other coaches to the kids and parents is amazing. It’s really a great community to be a part of,” says Rogers. “Also, as much as the children are having fun, the coaches are having a blast as well. I’m grateful to be a part of something that brings so much joy.”
Enthusiastic parents also contribute to the growing community of Prague English Football School devotees.
“We have built a really big community in Prague and are very well known, people love being a part of the school be it the parents, kids, or coaches,” says Bizzell. “It’s not your typical football club atmosphere,” he adds.
For families hoping to immerse their children in English in an active way or who simply seek a welcoming weekend activity in an international setting, Prague English Football School is the only game in town.
The school accepts new members year-round; spring is an ideal time to check out the program which has just begun its new term. The school’s popular summer camp (July 8-12) is also currently open for registration. The next big enrollment will be in September.