SOCIAL media has been full of football clubs setting challenges for their young players in lockdown, but Oxford United are also looking for other types of skills.

While the 196 players in their academy system have physical programmes to follow, they have also been set challenges to equip them for everyday life.

The youth set-up has a mantra about investing in the lives of its players beyond their sporting abilities.

And they have released 50 life skills, from boiling an egg to changing a bike tyre, for the youngsters to tick off.

“We’re all in uncharted territory at the moment,” Dan Harris, United’s academy manager said.

“It is open-ended and we don’t know when normality will come back.

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“With that in mind, I think there’s a real sense of us being able to view this as an opportunity.

“The reality is over the course of the next few months there will be people who come out the other side of this much better-equipped for life having really invested in themselves and those around them.

“There will be other people who come out of it having completed Netflix.

“While we’re all relying on those TV channels, the bottom line is that can’t be our biggest achievement at the end of it.

“Hopefully this is a way of making sure our lads have some structure and some challenges and are prepped for life a bit.”

The players are encouraged to share footage of them completing tasks, restoring a competitive element which can easily be lost in the absence of their normal routine.

It is an extension of United’s rounded approach.

Given the odds which are stacked against young players, only a few of them can become successful professional players, but the intention is everyone in the set-up can come out ready for the real world.

Harris said: “If it got to the point where guys were coming out of school at 16 with their GCSEs but also with these 50 life skills in their back pocket, we’re probably doing a fairly decent job of prepping the guys for the world ahead.

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“There are plenty of adults out there, myself included, who probably couldn’t do all of those 50.

“But maybe it’s a little way of bringing families together and learning a skill.

“If it gets young people interacting in different ways, asking questions of their grandparents over the phone or talking to a neighbour over the fence then great because that’s helping people connect.

“There’s an opportunity here where you take all the criticisms we have of younger generations and we get a chance to play a part in helping to shape that.”

While this is a strange time for all, Harris has some prior experience.

During his time working in South Korea, the country went into lockdown for more than a fortnight to contain an outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

He said: “It wasn’t on the scale we have now, but what it drove home to me is we will come out the other side of this particular situation.

“If anything we have probably got to use this time to reflect on what amazing experiences they are and we do take them for granted.”

The 50 skills in full


  • Vacuum the carpets
  • Change a lightbulb
  • Re-lace your shoes
  • Test the smoke alarms
  • Learn how to budget finances
  • Shine your smart shoes
  • Tie a tie
  • Know how to call the emergency services
  • Shuffle a deck of cards
  • Learn a key phrase in a foreign language
  • Whistle (fingers and no fingers)
  • Clean and care for the pet


  • Boil an egg
  • Fry an egg
  • Scramble an egg
  • Make an omelette
  • Make a cheese toastie
  • Make a cup of tea/coffee
  • Make tomato pasta
  • Make a sandwich
  • Make pancakes
  • Peel three types of vegetables
  • Cook a portion of rice
  • Use a sharp kitchen knife
  • Follow a cooking recipe
  • Make a smoothie
  • Understand food nutritional info


  • Take out the rubbish/recycling into the correct bin
  • Check if something is recyclable
  • Wash the dishes by hand
  • Work the dishwasher
  • Work the washing machine
  • Make the bed
  • Change the bed sheets
  • Learn to iron a shirt
  • Fold a shirt and trousers
  • Clean a bathroom correctly
  • Sew on a button


  • Address and send a letter
  • Locate yourself on a map
  • Use a map & compass
  • Read a bus schedule
  • Read a train timetable
  • Navigate the London Underground


  • Change a bike tyre
  • Write a CV
  • Learn to use a spirit level
  • Hang a picture on the wall
  • Mow the lawn
  • Light a campfire