SoccerHelp Tips

Is it Better to Give Patches to the "Best" Players or for Individual Improvement?
Important ways you can motivate your soccer players
Bravery, Hustle, Leadership, Defense, Attending Practice, Listening to the Coaches, Teamwork and Team Attacking are Important
We sell patches for all sports and to Schools
How to ask parents to contribute to buy the patches

Hi SoccerHelp,

I have read the benefits of the motivational patch system and would like to implement it for my U8 boys soccer team in the Spring.

I would like to start out simple, like use a defender patch, a hustle patch, and a goal scored patch as a reward after ever game.

At U8, our league plays 4V4 but on two small field, so I play 8 players at a time with 1 sub each. My asst. coach and I each coach a field. My question is, based on your experience, what is the best way to implement patches? I was thinking to do 3 patches per field, so I would award 6 patches per game. Is this the best route to take? Thank you.

Coach Bob


Hi Coach Bob,

The patch reward program you should use depends on what you think will best motivate your players to come to practice, to be brave, to hustle, to listen to the coaches, to improve their skills, and to play as a team. I don't want to sound like my advice is based on trying to sell you something - the patches work and we will sell over a million patches this year for all sports and to schools who use them to motivate students. I will give you my thoughts and you can decide what will work best for your team. We have customers who have bought our patches for over 5 years.

I started giving patches to get my Rec players to come to practice. We only practiced once a week and only had about 4 practices before the first game. I realized that IF I could get 100% attendance at those first 4 practices it would make a HUGE difference in how my team played. If young players don't come to practice, they won't know what they should do as a member of the team, and official practices are the only time most players practice. In addition to skills, young players need to practice things such as throw ins, goal kicks, First Defender/Second Defender, etc..

So, I would recommend giving a patch for Practice Attendance, at least for your pre-season practices. If you can get 100% practice attendance your team will play a lot better, it will be more fun for everyone, and your job as a coach will be MUCH easier.

Once games start, decide what behavior you most want to encourage and whether you want to only give patches to the "Best" players or if you want to reward individual improvement. The risk of only giving patches to the "Best" players is that the most athletic players might be the only ones to win a patch, and if that happens the less athletic players will be discouraged. On the other hand, if you tell the players (and parents) that you are going to give a patch to the "Best" player, and then you don't give it to the "Best" player because that player has gotten a patch 5 times in a row and the other kids are complaining that they never get one, there is a good chance the "Best" player won't understand why they didn't get the patch because you promised it to the "Best", and your good intentions might backfire (this happened to me). In youth soccer, the most athletic players usually do great because they get lots of positive feedback from parents, coaches and spectators. The kids who need the most encouragement are those who are timid, unathletic, unmotivated or have attention deficit. Since soccer is a team sport, how well your team will do depends on how well your "weak links" do. At U8 a couple of great players can control a game. But by U10 that won't be the case and the better "team" will usually win.

I think it is better to reward individual improvement rather than the "Best" player. That way every player will be encouraged to improve and has a chance to "earn" a patch. Also, you will avoid arguments about who was the "Best" player or who hustled the most. It is important to keep all of your players motivated and for all of them to improve. Be careful about giving a patch for goals scored because that could backfire and then every kid wants to play Forward all the time. If you give a patch for scoring, give it for "Team Attacking" as described at

Giving the patches for individual improvement cuts out problems of jealousy and every player can earn patches for attending practice or for individual improvement, so it is a very fair approach.

My suggestions are:

  1. Use the patches to try to get 100% attendance at pre-season practices. If your players come to the pre-season practices, it will make a HUGE difference.

  2. Use the patches to motivate every player to hustle, be brave (to win the ball and play tough defense) and to listen to the coachces. If all the players on your team are brave and hustle, and your team has decent skills, you will probably win most of your games and will beat teams that may be �better� but that don�t hustle and win the ball. If your players hustle and are brave, you will be proud of them even if they lose because they have done their best.

  3. Set "Improvement Goals" for each player as far as things you want them to work on, such as bravery, hustle, leadership, defense, attending practice, listening to the coaches, teamwork, and Team Attacking, and use the patches to reward that behavior. That way EVERY kid has a chance to "EARN" a patch. If all your players attend practice, are brave, hustle and listen to the coaches, your team will improve rapidly. This approach will result in better players, a better team and a better coaching experience. I didn't use the patches to get my players to listen to the coaches, but in hindsight I wish I had, because that is very important.

Once the parents see the patches they are usually glad to contribute to buy them, but it helps if they see the results first. Don't make it a requirement that they contribute and don't ask their "permission" to start a patch reward program, because if you do you open the door to "coaching by committee" and you can't get approval of every decision you make. I usually had a few parents who "sponsored" the patches. Keep in mind that in Rec soccer, you might get some parents who don't really care about soccer and don't care about the team - I had some who only signed up because their child begged them ... don't expect those parents to support any idea you have - they will be opposed to anything that might cause them extra work, such as bringing their child to practice. Don't let oddball parents spoil everyone's fun.

Thanks for being our customer. Please let me know what you do and how it works.

David at SoccerHelp