How to Improve Peripheral Vision and Train Soccer Players to Play Instinctively. Coach Doug is in Florida now and coaching U8 and U4. We were talking the other day and he mentioned that he had recently played the "Dribble Across a Square" soccer practice game with other adults for the first time, up to that point he had only played it with kids. He said it was eye-opening because it made him realize how much that game helped develop peripheral vision and instinctive reactions. He said it was very chaotic at first, but he quickly began to adjust and instinctively react instead of thinking. We both agreed that it is important to train players to play fast and instinctively while under pressure. Training at a slow pace and without pressure does NOT prepare players to play fast and under pressure. It is also very important to train players to play instinctively, without thinking. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, a player really can't "think" and "play" at the same time. (Yogi said "You can't think and hit at the same time.") Fortunately, many of the SoccerHelp Practice Games train players to play fast and instinctively while under pressure.
How to Practice Soccer so the Game "Slows Down" for your Players. Have you ever heard college and pro players talk about how hard it was for them to adjust to the "speed of the game", but once they did, the game "slowed down"? The same thing happens to soccer players, and that is why it is important to practice in a Game Realistic way that teaches your players to play fast and instinctively while under pressure. The more your players practice fast and instinctively while under pressure, the more the game will "Slow Down" for them, and the better they will perform in their real matches.
Why Splitting Your Team in Half and Scrimmaging is NOT the Best Way to Practice. "Game Realistic" does NOT mean you should split your team in half and scrimmage a lot at practice. Scrimmages that involve half your team playing the other half aren't real matches and your players don't get enough touches on the ball for it to be a good practice. The key to improving is lots of touches on the ball and repetition of a soccer skill while under pressure. If you are a Travel Team coach and practice 5 hours a week or if your players don't need to work on skills, this may not apply to you, but if you have a typical Rec, select, middle school or high school soccer team it does.
Most of our soccer practice games involve competition, and competition creates Game Realistic pressure and pushes players to play fast. Keeping score also has the advantage of allowing coaches to measure each player's progress.
How to Master a Soccer Skill so it Can be Successfully Used in a Real Soccer Game. Our soccer Practice Games have the advantage of providing lots of touches (most have a ball-ratio of 50% or more) and allow a player to repeatedly practice a skill until it can be performed fast and instinctively while under pressure.
The Benefits of "Chaotic" Soccer Practice Games. A few of our practice games are "chaotic" because lots of players are doing things in a small space. This is good for many reasons - it is Game Realistic, it creates a type of "pressure", it trains players to be comfortable in "traffic," and it improves peripheral vision and trains players to react instinctively. Real matches can be chaotic - unexpected things are happening fast and players must be able to react instinctively without thinking.
Two soccer practice games in particular are "chaotic": Dribble Across a Square and 2 Team Keepaway. When your team plays these 2 games, notice how quickly the "chaos" starts to make sense to your players. By playing in chaotic conditions, under pressure, the game will start to "slow down" for your players. If you haven't played the "Dribble Across a Square" soccer practice game, give it a try. If your players are smaller than you, imagine how it would be if they were as tall as you. You will notice, as Coach Doug did, that you will quickly start to react instinctively because you don't have time to think, and you will dribble while looking up so you won't run into anyone.
How to Teach your Soccer Players to "See" the Soccer Field (Field Vision). If you play Dribble Across a Square with the larger square, you will notice that to win the game you must start to "see Open Space" (which is like "seeing the field") and look for a seam in the traffic to kick the ball through so you can run to the ball and speed up, the players who do that will win, and those who don't do it will lose. The game is self-teaching, but it will help if you give your players tips after each game.