Do Your Soccer Practices Prepare your Players for Games?
Are your soccer practices Game-Realistic?
Do You Train Your Players to Play at Game-Speed?
Practices should be both Soccer-Relevant and Game-Realistic
How to Coach Soccer Players by Using "Tips"
Players will listen to you because the Tips will help them win Practice Games, so they will see that your Tips work
12 Standards Used to Develop SoccerHelp Practice Games

Note From David. Any activity that a soccer player needs to be able to do is "soccer-relevant", but not all "soccer-relevant" activities are "game-realistic". The article below discusses why it is important to have soccer practices that are both Soccer Relevant and Game Realistic.

NOTE: This article is for U8, U10, U12 and older soccer coaches, and not for U4 or U6 soccer coaches. If you are a U4 or U6 coach, just play the SoccerHelp and Coach Doug Practice Games and have fun - don't keep score.

Correspondence in the Premium Forum caused me to think about the definitions of "soccer-relevant" and "game-realistic" soccer practice activities. This is important because every coach should want his or her practices to be "soccer-relevant" and "game-realistic", but what do those terms mean? It is important because you want to train your players in a way that is both Soccer Relevant and Game Realistic.

Here is what I think: Any activity that a soccer player needs to be able to do 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. 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. 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.

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". 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.

Most players play as they train, so training that is Game-Realistic is better than training that isn't Game-Realistic. 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". A good way to give tips is by noticing what caused a player to have a low score. Another good way to give tips 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 , if a player gets a bad score in the Control Dribbling version of the game it is usually because he or she either didn't keep the ball near his or her feet when in traffic, or kicked the ball too far in front, lost control and couldn'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 and 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 more Practice Games, 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, the Coach and the team.

Training without keeping score basically trains players to play slow (because players aren't forced to train at Game-Speed) and DOESN'T prepare players to play against competition. This is the reason that almost all SoccerHelp Practice Games involve keeping score. I invented Dribble Across a Square and it is copyrighted. There is a free version on SoccerHelp and it is also a Premium Game. There are over 70 Practice Games on Premium.

There are 12 standards that I use to develop SoccerHelp Practice Games, such as keeping score, a high ball ratio, minimize lines and maximize activity, they must be soccer-relevant, they must work for any number of players, and no elimination games. It's hard to develop Games that meet those 12 standards. For example, I spent over 2 years developing and testing the most recent Premium Game, Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender, 1v1 Attacking and Defending, it was an idea I had worked on for 7 years. What was hard was to get it right, but I'm getting a great response from coaches. If you want to see the 12 standards I use, read the article from the Soccer Journal titled Practice Games Beat Drills, More can be achieved in less time and they are fun for players

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. If you read the review on SoccerHelp of "Training Championship Players and Teams", you will see that 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." Make your practices Game-Realistic and you will quickly see the difference.

David at SoccerHelp