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Productive practicing: Include cooperative and competitive play

Productive practicing: Include cooperative and competitive play


By Karl Dewazien

In order to instill the love of the game in your players you need to organize practices which put a smile on everyone’s face and ensure that they arrive – and leave – in a good mood.

You have been given the title “soccer coach” and your job is to teach your players how to play the game. To prepare players you must organize practices in such a manner that it becomes apparent it is a rehearsal for the game day routine. So we must assume that your players come to soccer practices to play soccer – and that they do not come to practices to run laps, stand in lines and listen to lectures.

However, you will be faced with players who are not interested in playing soccer and adjustments must be made accordingly. Give appropriate attention to the disinterested player but not at the expense of the rest. Make the practices so much FUN that the disinterested player will want to join. Here are some guidelines:

As the players arrive, greet each one of them by their name, with a smile, a personal compliment and a specially created team handshake. 

Begin each and every practice by briefly showing and telling your players what they will learn. Quickly going from the explanation/demonstration to a warm-up – each player with a ball – is highly recommended. It has been proven that warm-ups which include lots of touches and figure-8 dribbling will develop confident left- and right-footed players!

The warm-up prepares players to play the 1 vs. 1 and small-sided scrimmages and games.

In order to play these games properly you must teach your players that there is a time to learn (Cooperative Play). Stoppages for “points of refinement” will take place during this time of practice. Teach your players that when their name is called, or if they are asked to “freeze” it is a positive moment in which you will help them become better players. Everyone must be taught that Cooperative Play Time is necessary for their improvement, and not meant to embarrass anyone. Stoppages are necessary to improve players, but players may not consider them to be much fun.

Teach your players that there is a time to be tested (Competitive Play). No stoppages for “points of refinement” will take place during this time of practice. Teach your players that their names will not be called and they will not be asked to “freeze.” This is their time to experiment and fail their way to success. Everyone must be taught that Competitive Play Time is necessary for players and coaches to see what progress has been made. No Stoppages are also necessary to improve players – and players consider them to be a lot of fun. 

Teach less! When the players and ball are moving soccer learning is taking place! However, when players and the ball stop moving, then soccer learning stops! So ask yourself: Does it happen in the game? If the answer is YES, then do it in practice. If the answer is NO, then don't do it in practice.

Organize the practice session in such a manner that it becomes apparent it is a rehearsal for the game day routine. This can only be accomplished through a consistent, sequential routine that allows your players to learn what is expected. It is wise to avoid variety. If they are introduced to something different at each practice session this will lead to some confusion and confusion can lead to disinterest. It is also important to remember that all games must have a goal to attack and a goal to defend.

An effective practice plan should consist of the following:

Step 1.  Warm-up

Step 2.  Play 1+1 Cooperative  

Step 3.  Play 1 vs. 1 Competitive

Step 4   Halftime break

Step 5. Play Cooperative Small-Sided Game followed by the Competitive Game

Step 6. Play Cooperative Scrimmage followed by a Competitive Scrimmage

Step 7. Cool down

Remember, as each player leaves practice be sure to mention their name, have a smile on your face, and give a personal compliment while using the special team handshake.

The more you allow them to just play, the longer they will want to stay!

Karl Dewazien is the retired State Director of Coaching for the California Youth Soccer Association. He is the author of the Internationally published “FUNdamental SOCCER Book Series” and co-producer of the highly acclaimed “9 Step Practice Routine DVD.” He is currently a renowned Internet Educator of all things Youth Soccer. To learn more visit

Soccer Practice Scrimmages

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