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What if your child had the opportunity to experience a safe, engaging learning and playing environment that focused on their needs, desires and goals- Is that what you want for your child? Of course, you do. That is Play-Practice-Play! US Soccer and the New Jersey Youth Soccer Coaching School have created this information sheet to answer some of your possible questions about this component of U.S. Soccer's Player Development and Safety Initiatives that coaches at every level will soon be implementing at your club!


Play-Practice-Play is based on a philosophy and methodology 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. The concept of Play-Practice-Play is to maximize the time young players have playing the game and game-like situations. This approach differs greatly from traditional practices you may have witnessed with your child or been exposed to if you participated in organized sports-namely children standing in lines waiting for their turn, running laps and participating in boring drills that besides not being fun, don't resemble the what happens in the game of soccer. We believe the best way to enjoy and learn how to play the game is to play the game! The practice is run in the following stages:

When players arrive to practice, the first responsibility of their coach is to create an environment that is safe, engaging and fun. In the first Play phase, as players arrive they are immediately greeted and engaged in playing. 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 can experience the game while the coach observes and guides them towards developing their own solutions rather than being directed what to do.

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.

The final Play phase offers players the opportunity and freedom to play, without interruption, in an environment that mirrors the actual game they will be playing on the weekend. 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 can check each player's understanding and ability to execute the goal of the training session.

Want to read more on this funtastic learning environment? Click here.