Comparison of Non-Competitive Soccer Drill Training
with the SoccerHelp Practice Games
Soccer training should be Relevant and at Game-Speed
Competition and Pressure Produces the Best Results and Trains Players to Play Fast and Under Pressure
An easy way to monitor your players progress
How soccer drills can train players to play slow
How to get players to listen to the soccer coach
How Anson Dorrance Inspired SoccerHelp
What is the "Competitive Cauldron" Practice Approach?
Should you only work on one thing per soccer practice?

This article is for U8, U10, U12, U14 and older soccer coaches, not for U4 or U6 soccer coaches. If you are a U4 or U6 coach, just play the games and have fun - don't keep score.

The Difference Between "Soccer-Relevant" and "Game-Realistic" Soccer Practice Activities.

Any activity that a soccer player needs to be able to undertake in a soccer match is "soccer-relevant", but not all "soccer-relevant" activities are "game-realistic". The old "Crab Soccer" game, for example, involved players crawling on the ground. It's easy to know that isn't "relevant" because soccer players don't crawl on the ground in matches. But what's relevant or not relevant isn't so clear-cut in some cases. For example, long distance running seems relevant because soccer players run a lot, but it actually isn't a good way to train soccer players because soccer matches are a lot of short sprints, not continuous long runs, so long distance running isn't "relevant" and can actually be counterproductive because it trains the muscles for long runs, not short sprints. Soccer Dribbling IS relevant, but just dribbling around a square in any direction without pressure isn't "game-realistic because that isn't what you are supposed to do in a soccer match. Dribbling through cones is relevant but NOT "game-realistic" because a player doesn't dribble through cones in a soccer match. Keeping score IS "game-realistic" because we keep score in soccer matches by the age of U8 or so (my experience is that even if the score isn't officially kept, most coaches and parents keep score).

Why soccer Practice Games that Keep Score are Better than Soccer Drills that Don't Keep Score

Keeping score creates pressure for players to do an activity faster and better, so players learn how to perform an activity under pressure and at "Game-Speed", which is "Game-Realistic".

Soccer drills that don't involve keeping score are NOT game realistic because there isn't pressure, they aren't at Game-Speed, and players aren't trying their hardest. Drills that don't involve pressure and that allow players to practice at less than their fastest speed are actually counterproductive, because they are training players to play slower than Game-Speed and without pressure. In most cases, which player will perform better in a real soccer match - the player who has trained without pressure and at a speed that is less that "Game-Speed", or the player who has trained under pressure and at "Game-Speed"? The answer is obvious.

Game-Realistic Soccer Training is Better Because it Prepares Players for Real Soccer Matches

The purpose of soccer training is to prepare players for real matches, so soccer training that is Game-Realistic is better than training that isn't Game-Realistic.

Keeping Score Also Allows the Coach to Monitor Each Player's Progress so the Coach Will Know Who Needs Help

Keeping score is also a way to monitor each player's progress and how hard the player is trying. If a player has the highest score, the coach knows that player is trying hard and has developed a higher level of skill than the rest of the group. If a player has a low score, the coach should focus on that player to learn why the score is low (for example, is the player just not trying? Or does the player need some coaching tips because he or she is doing something wrong?. Keeping score is a sort of diagnostic test that can show the coach where attention is needed. SO, keeping score is critical for both the coach and for the players.

A Good Way to Coach Soccer Skills (teach soccer skills) is by Giving "Tips".

How to Give Players "Tips" So They Will Want to Listen to You and Follow Your Advice. This is Called a "Guided Instruction" Approach.

A good way to give tips is by noticing what caused a player to have a low score in a soccer Practice Game. Another good way is by pointing out why the player with the highest score had the highest score. For example: In the Dribble Across a Square Practice Game, most players get a bad score in the Control Dribbling version of the game because they either don't keep the ball near their feet when in traffic, or because they kick the ball too far in front, lose control and can't make a turn. The players who win the game are those who do those who keep the ball near their feet when in traffic, who look up while dribbling and make their turns. There are Coaching Tips at most of the SoccerHelp Practice Games. If you use this "Tips" method, your players will improve much faster and they will start to listen to you. Why will they listen to you? Because the players who listen will start to win the games, and those who don't will lose. Your players will quickly see a "cause and effect" relationship and will see that the players who listen benefit by winning, and those who don't lose. The result will be that players will listen and use your "Tips" and quickly improve. This approach is obviously good for the players and for the Coach.

Most SoccerHelp Practice Games Keep Score and Train Players to Play Fast and Under Pressure. Here is one example:

The Dribble Across a Square Practice Game keeps score and forces players to dribble through other players (it is intentionally designed that way). Dribble Across a Square keeps score, is game-realistic (involves competition, pressure and game-speed), each player faces the same challenges, and allows the coach to use the scores to measure progress and give "tips" to the players so they can all improve and see what they are doing right and wrong. A coach can have his kids dribble around at random in a square, or through cones, at 20 practices and they won't improve as much as they will by playing Dribble Across a Square at 4 practices. I know because I've done it both ways. See the directions for Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race for instructions about how to give Tips

Anson Dorrance was a pioneer of competitive soccer training and an inspiration for the SoccerHelp Method

Anson Dorrance, who is the most successful college soccer coach of all time, was a pioneer of competitive soccer training and an inspiration for the SoccerHelp Method. Coach Dorrance tries to develop a "Competitive Cauldron" at practice. Basically, he tries to keep score in everything he can. We don't sell that DVD set any more, but the review tells a lot about Coach Dorrance's training methods. Here is a quote from Anson Dorrance: "The only environment you truly develop a player in is in a competitive arena." You can't create what Anson Dorrance calls a "Competitive Cauldron" soccer practice unless you keep score. It's important to have your players tell you their scores at the end of each Practice Game and to give Tips at the end of each soccer Practice Game. What makes it competitive and creates pressure is comparing the scores to see who won and who improved. If the kids know they are competing to see who got the highest score, they will try harder. Keeping score creates pressure to do the activity faster and better and leads to improvement and the ability to perform under pressure, and that's what makes the practice game-realistic. Also, keeping score is how the coach measures each player's progress and how hard they are trying, so you can see who needs help and correct their mistakes.

4 Reasons Why the Idea of Only Doing One Thing Per Practice Doesn't Work Well for Rec Coaches, and Why Practicing at Game Speed and Under Pressure is Better:

  1. Rec coaches don't have the luxury of practicing that way. Rec coaches don't have many practices to get ready for the season and what if half their team misses the "dribbling" practice? Or what if players show up half way through the practice? Rec coaches need a training approach that produces the maximum benefit even if players miss a practice or show up late.

  2. Dribbling is the most important skill and needs to be practiced at every youth soccer practice.

  3. Soccer matches are chaotic - not neatly organized. Players need to be trained to do the correct thing instinctively during chaotic, high-pressure match conditions. Soccer players must be able to react instinctively (without thinking) to whatever occurs in a soccer match, while under pressure, and they must be able to perform complex skills (such as kicking the ball while running and one-touch passes and shots) at Game Speed. There are many, many things a player needs to be able to quickly react to and do instinctively without thinking. My opinion is that the best way to train is by using an approach that is game-realistic (meaning an approach that keeps score to create competition, pressure and game-speed).

  4. Can you imagine how bored most Rec players would get if the entire practice was dribbling drills that don't involve competition?

For more about why soccer Practice Games are a better way to train, read the article that I wrote for the Soccer Journal titled Practice Games Beat Drills, More can be achieved in less time and they are fun for players.

David at SoccerHelp