US Soccer is making changes to help the beautiful game, soccer, keep up with the rest of the world and hope to compete with other countries in producing top level soccer players. One of the things most needed in American soccer is more free play. In every top player producing country kids have a lot more free play opportunities and are encourage more to just go out and play. No structure, no coaching, no adult supervision. Just play.
U.S. Soccer has launched Grassroots initiatives to come online through the launch of the in-person and online Grassroots coaching courses, a critical concept that all Grassroots coaches will learn about is Play-Practice-Play. Researched and developed by technical leaders across the domestic Grassroots landscape, Play-Practice-Play is the optimal manner to structure a practice session for youth players, as it utilizes best practices for the learning and application of game-like scenarios.
WHAT IS PLAY-PRACTICE-PLAY?
Play-Practice-Play is a Grassroots developed philosophy designed around a player-centered approach to coaching. Taking a player centered approach places the needs and motivations of the player at the forefront of a coach’s approach to coaching his or her players. The concept of Play-Practice-Play is to allow young players to experience the game and game-like situations as much as possible. This approach differs from traditional practices that may have children standing in lines, running laps and participating in drills that don’t resemble the game of soccer. We as coaches here have always implemented a curriculum that started training sessions with rondos or small sided games followed by technical or tactical training and finishing with games. This is not being rolled out by US Soccer and mandated in their grassroots training for coaches.
Free play can be implemented and conducted in many other ways, not just during training. America must get away from so much structured, organized coach based training and have more player based free play. Parents must understand and accept the fact that if they have played soccer when they were younger things have changed. Our culture has changed. The evolution of technology has seriously changed the way kids play today. Kids do not go out on their own search for their friends and just play. The dangers of our society have made parents be more weary of their kids going out playing unsupervised. Most parents grew up going to parks or school yards with a ball and a bunch of their friends and just play. That concept is not seen as much any more. We need to recreate the school yard, no adult supervision scenario. Parents should not expect just drills and coaching from training sessions. In fact they should look for more free play from their kids' coaches. Be flexible and willing to accept new training methods. For those that do not know the sport do not allow your perception to overtake what is right or what is recommended by experts.
Encourage more free play