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Play-Practice-Play Method

US Soccer’s Grassroots Player Development Philosophy Player Centered Approach. This coaching method was adapted by US Soccer in January 2018.

Click Here – US Soccer article

This method of coaching takes a Player / Child-Centered Approach. Allowing players to learn by playing, make their own mistakes and figure out their own solutions will help them develop quicker as players and help foster a love for the game. Players learn in different ways and at different paces, so at the younger age groups adopting the Play-Practice-Play Method will be very beneficial.

QSA Practice Session Plan: Play-Practice-Play Philosophy

The “traditional” method of coaching has been a Coach-Centered Approach. This involves coaches giving instruction with no options, which does not develop decision making skills and creativity. The players would be “rewarded” at the end of the session with a scrimmage. By restructuring the way your practice is organized gives players much more enjoyment and will keep their focus for the entire session. When kids are having fun they will work harder, be more engaged and improve at a faster pace, which makes a coach’s job much easier and enjoyable.

Every coach should shift their approach to Child-Centered, Guided Discovery and Play-Practice-Play.

Structure of a Play-Practice-Play Session:
– Organized in 3 phases. Starting with a free play small-sided game / scrimmage. The practice phase is an activity based on the theme / topic of your session. The final phase is a small-sided game with certain objectives and progressions.
– Although this method is recommended for the younger age groups of U6, U8 & U10; it is still constructive for older age groups.

Excerpt from US Soccer website
“At its core, the philosophy of U.S. Soccer’s grassroots pathway initiative is Play-Practice-Play, a philosophy coaches learn about in the Introduction to Grassroots Coaching module. This approach will focus on the player experiencing and learning through play while also empowering the coach to support his or her player’s learning and developmental needs.”

Principles of Play

Attacking
– Penetration
– Support
– Mobility
– Width
– Improvisation, Creativity

Defending
– 
Pressure
– Cover
– Balance
– Compactness
– Improvisation, Creativity

Total Football – Johan Cruyff

A tactical theory of soccer in which any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in the team. (Positionless Soccer)

“If you have the ball, you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball, you must make it as small as possible.”

Elements for Proper Player Development
via NSCAA Soccer Journal

1. Individual Talent
2. Curriculum of the Program
3. Quality of the Coaching
4. Quality within the Team
5. Quality of the League

Qualities of a Good Coach

Below are qualities I feel are important to have as a coach

  • Teacher
  • Good Communicator
  • Positive & Encouraging
  • Organized
  • Relate to your players

Curriculum Organization
(via NSCAA)

How do we organize learning:

  • Appropriate Content
  • Methodology (variety)
  • Supporting Knowledge
  • Learning Environment

Game / Match Day Preparation and Management

Properly preparing your team for game day is a key to success. Every opponent presents a different challenge. Setting goals for each game or tournament, and season goals are very important.

Here are team goals and focus points I used during a tournament –

Attacking

  • Quality First Touch
  • 1v1 Situations
  • Scan the Field
  • Keep Possession

Defending

  • Defend in Pairs
  • Stay Balanced
  • 1st Defender – apply pressure
  • Lose Ball – Win it Back!

Team Goals

  • Good Shape – attacking & defending
  • 100% effort entire game
  • Communication

Practice Planning

Being organized and putting together a plan for your practices is an important aspect of coaching. Please click the links below for practice planning ideas.

U6 & U8 Practice Planner
Practice Planner

Parents & Coaches Influence on Kids Through Youth Sports

Great article in the New England Soccer Journal, June 2015 Edition, written by Adam Scott.  Details the impact that parents and coaches have on young athletes through sports.  Also, discusses the drop off in participation at age 13. John O’Sullivan, Changing the Game Project, has started a movement on this topic. Please click here for the website. Click Here for NE Soccer Journal Article.

Concussion Information Concussions are becoming more common in youth sports, including soccer. It is important for coaches, parents, and players to get educated.
Concussion Facts

Manchester United Academy clinic
My son attended a Man U Academy clinic in June 2013, through Strikers United in Acton. The Director of that club has ties to Manchester, England, so he was able to set up this amazing opportunity for players in Massachusetts. It was the best coaching that I have ever seen. The coach that had my son’s group, Lee Unsworth, played for 13 years in the 2nd Division in England and currently coaches the U11 Man U Academy Team. Watching him run the session and listening to his coaching points was unbelievable and taught me a lot. I had a chance afterwards to talk to him about the Man U Academy. Their philosophies are so much different than those in our country. They put their priority on training, not games. They have friendly matches against other Academy teams, but do not play in a league or put emphasis on results. Strikers United is planning to have the Man U Academy coaches back next year! I will certainly post the information on this website.

Education
Improving as a coach involves experience and education. The NSCAA enhances the development of coaches of all levels. I have attended many coaching courses through the NSCAA and the USSF. You learn something new and different at every course you attend!

Coaching “In the Game”
I believe that the best method of coaching during a game is giving limited instruction / direction and just letting the kids play.  Coaching is done at practice.  The game is a place for the players to show what they have learned.  They need to be able to make their own decisions in games.  “The game is the best teacher.”

Great Philosophy for U6 – U8 Program
An 8 week program curriculum for U6 – U8 / Junior Academy players.  Two days a week, train one day and play games the other day.  Two teams train together to allow coaches to support and learn from each other.  The goal is to develop the age group, not the teams, while developing the coaches.  Game days will be split into two fields, playing 4 v 4.  Coaches will oversee all players on game day.  The small-sided games will allow the players to be involved in game situations.

Dutch Box
Useful as a warmup for a training session or a game, also can be used for an entire training session. Very effective game! Your team can work on so many different skills in this one game.

Dutch Box ASC Setup –

  • Grid (size appropriate to how many players)
  • Equal number of players inside the grid and along the outside
  • Players inside the grid all have a soccer ball
  • Players on the outside spread out to cover length and width of grid

Instructions –

  • Player on inside finds an open player on the outside.  Dribble / Pass to player on the outside (depending on which variation you are doing)
  • Player on outside receives ball and moves to inside of grid. Player on inside replaces player on outside
  • Different variations determine if players remain on inside / outside

Variations –

  • Dribble to player on outside
  • Pass to player on outside
  • One / Two touch passing with player on outside (player on outside remains in place)
  • Overlapping runs
  • Long-Short-Short (give & go) passing

Coaching Points –

  • Focus on proper techniques of dribbling and passing
  • When using dribbling variation, work on different types of touches, attacking moves, change of direction, etc…
  • Timing of runs (overlapping variation)

Training Session Focus

Focus on one topic for one full week of training / practice.

  • Examples of Topics – Attacking Moves, Movement off the Ball, Proper Technique of Dribbling or Passing, etc.

Use your pre-game warmup (20-30 minutes) as a mini technical session.

Barcelona video
Tika-Taka Passing Video
Click Here to Watch Video