NEW Grassroots Philosophy

SAM Soccer supports the new coaching philosophy being taught and implemented by US Soccer. Here is what it is and how it can benefit you the player, parent and/or coach.

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.

STAGE 1: PLAY

When players arrive to practice, the first responsibility of the coach is to create an environment that is safe, engaging and fun. In the first Play phase, players engage in small-sided games with the primary focus on having fun. It is important that these pickup-style games are led by the players and facilitated by the coaches. During this first Play stage, players have the opportunity to experience the game while the coach observes and guides them towards developing their own solutions rather than being directed what to do.  

STAGE 2: PRACTICE

In the second phase of Play-Practice-Play, children are engaged in different forms of targeted learning activities to further guide their opportunities to develop. The goal of the Practice phase is to create an environment filled with opportunities for players to experience and learn about the goal of the training session through repetition.

Practice activities should be of appropriate challenge (striking a balance between success and failure), resemble the game, involve the players making decisions and allow for creative problem solving. The role of the coach during this phase is to guide players while using teaching actions. While it is during this phase that targeted learning takes place, there should always be an emphasis on keeping the atmosphere fun and enjoyable for the players.

STAGE 3: PLAY AGAIN!

The final stage of Play-Practice-Play is the game. This phase offers players the opportunity and freedom to play, without interruption, in an environment that mirrors the actual game. The focus of the final Play phase is to encourage players to express themselves and demonstrate what they learned during the Practice phase. A coach should observe and guide using minimal dialogue if possible. By silently observing the application of the Practice phase in the final Play phase, the coach is able to check each player’s understanding and ability to execute the goal of the training session.

As the U.S. Soccer Grassroots initiatives continue 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.

Through U.S. Soccer’s Grassroots Licensing Courses, prospective coaches have the opportunity to learn more about the Play-Practice-Play methodology. These opportunities include gaining access to already created Play-Practice-Play training sessions. Click here to access U.S. Soccer’s free Introduction to Grassroots Coaching Education Module and start your journey towards becoming a licensed coach!

The New Grassroots Pathway Initiative is focused on coaching fundamentals.

 U.S. Soccer has announced eight (8) new grassroots level coaching courses to be introduced in early 2018. These courses will be focused empowering coaches through experiential learning and a player-centered approach. The course options will relate directly to small-sided games and the respective age-groups outlined in the Player Development Initiatives.

The new Grassroots Licensing Courses will consist of four (4) in-person experiences and four (4) online experiences. Prospective coaches will have the option to engage in any of these new courses - in any sequence - after completing a free introductory module provided by U.S. Soccer.

"This new, a-la-carte approach is meant to empower grassroots coaches to access education - relevant to their needs and specific coaching environment - immediately through these new low barrier opportunities," said Frank Tschan, Director of Coaching Administration.

In addition to the eight (8) new opportunities, the D course has also been updated in accordance with the revamped approach at the grassroots level. "Over the last 12-months, U.S. Soccer has worked with its members to organize, study and pilot these new opportunities. This has been an immense project initiated by the Federation and its importance cannot be understated. The game is founded at the grassroots level; these courses will help ensure fun, enjoyable and developmentally appropriate environments."

Concurrently with the rollout of the new courses, the current F and E courses will transition out of the U.S. Soccer Coaching Pathway. These licenses will still be recognized by U.S. Soccer and both certifications remain relevant as a means to advance within the pathway. As demonstrated in the past, member organizations will be empowered to organize and host the in-person grassroots courses and the updated D course on behalf of U.S. Soccer. More specific information on the newly formatted grassroots courses, including format and scheduling, will be released in early 2018.

"To continue to improve the state of soccer in the United States, we must continue to improve the players in our country. This begins with our coaches and there is not a larger or more impactful group than our coaches at the grassroots level," said Director of Coaching Education, Nico Romeijn. "These new introductory courses will provide a supportive approach to teaching and coaching players at 4v4, 7v7, 9v9 and 11v11. Whether you are the unfamiliar parent volunteer, the transitioning player or a veteran coach, you should be able to walk away from these courses with more knowledge and a better understanding of how to effectively develop your players."