Motivating Players at Soccer Practice
How to Build Competition into Soccer Practice
Competition in practice prepares players to play fast and under pressure in real soccer games

To the Premium Forum,

I'm trying to make my practices more competitive by having my players keep score when we play the Practice Games and then asking their scores. My girls often ask me what they get for having the best time or the highest score in a Practice Game. What's a good answer besides bragging rights?

Coach G


Hi Coach G,

You definitely want to make a BIG DEAL of them winning a practice game so they are proud of winning, because you want them all to try their best to win in practice. SO, I would say something or give a reward that will give them the maximum motivation to want to win the practice games. The more important it is to them to win the better because they will try harder to win and there will be more competition in practice.

If you believe they are motivated enough and trying their best and don't feel it is necessary to give a symbolic reward, then I might say something like - "You get the pride of knowing that you will can help us win our next game" or "You get the pride of knowing you won and were the best in that game". As I read these, I'm not sure how much those types of statements will motivate kids - you can probably come up with something better.

If you want to motivate them more, buy some of our motivational patches or use some other motivation, or give them some sort of symbolic reward. Maybe not for winning one Practice Game, but for winning 2 or 3 Practice Games, and I wouldn't limit it to one practice - if it takes them 3 practices to earn a patch, great because they will come to practice. If they win or earn a patch at practice, encourage them to make a "Practice Shirt" to iron it on and to wear it to practice. That should motivate your other players to want to win patches too.

You want your practices to be competitive because competition creates pressure and that is more Game Realistic than practicing without pressure. It is much harder to perform a skill under pressure than it is without pressure and players practice harder and faster when there is competition. So, practicing under pressure better prepares players to play fast and under pressure in real games.

Asking the players their scores in the Practice Games is a good idea for ages U8 and older because it lets you monitor each player's progress and motivates the kids to try harder. You don't have to focus on players competing with each other - if it works better, you can focus on individual improvement and how much each player is improving.

I got a great idea this week from Coach Rick, a girls travel team coach. His team is putting the patches on "Streamers" which are a piece of cloth or a Ribbon about 2 inches wide and 12 inches long that the girls then attach to their backpacks. The Streamers are very noticeable and uniquely identify the girl's backpacks.

Here are some links to ideas about how to use our patches to motivate players:

How to Use Patches to Motivate Players, Members and Students

Where to Put Patches

Sample Patches Handouts for Players and Parents

David at SoccerHelp