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US Soccer

What is Play-Practice-Play?

Play-Practice-Play is a Grassroots developed philosophy created by the United States Soccer Federation that is designed around a player-centered approach to coaching.  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.

The Play-Practice-Play methodology is guaranteed to increase the amount of touches a player takes on the ball.  According to USSF, there is a direct correlation between player development and the number of touches a player takes on a ball.   Coaches are given a list of keywords to repeat with their players and a number of questions to ask their players in order to guide them towards understanding the lesson.  Every practice session uses a  "student-will-be-able-to" learning target approach that is used by school teachers around the world.

"When I started using Play-Practice-Play coaching sessions, my players started having a lot more fun, their soccer IQs went through the roof, and coaching became a lot more fun for me." - Daniel Rivera (MLSC Director of Coaching)

How to run a practice

Steps to choosing the lesson plan for the day:
Step 1: Choose the topic of the day:
Step 2: Choose what part of the field you want to focus on - Your own half, your opponent's half, or goal scoring.

Get there 30 minutes before the start of practice to set up the cones and get the equipment ready so there is no wait time for your players.  Slow start to practices lead to slow starts to games.  Make sure to read through your lesson before practice.

Play-Practice-Play sessions are broken into three stages.  Divide the amount of time you have allotted to your practice by 3 so that you can cover all three stages.


Set up two  small 4v4 fields using cones.  As your players show up hand them a training vest and put them in a game with little to no instruction.  Just let them play.  Once all of your players arrive, gather them to explain the topic of the practice, give them the keywords you want them to focus on, and ask them to think about the guided questions as they play.  Let them play again.  Once you have completed the first play phase, gather the players again and ask them for their answers to the guided questions.  Help them get to the correct answer.


In your session plan you'll see a Core Activity, Less Challenging, and More Challenging activities.  You should always start with the Core Activity.  From there, if your players are succeeding too often and the activity seems to easy for them, move to the More Challenging activity.  Explain the rules and the purpose of the activity to the players.  If your players are struggling with the Core Activity and are not succeeding often, move to the Less Challenging activity.    Halfway into the practice stage, without bringing them in, introduce the keywords and guided questions.  Once your time is up discuss the keywords and gather the answers to the guided questions from your players.

The role of the coach during this phase is to guide players while using teaching actions. While it's 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 stage of Play-Practice-Play is a full sided scrimmage.  The purpose of this stage is to assess that the players have learned the topic of the practice.  Make sure that the players are using the keywords of the day amongst themselves.  Halfway through, bring the players in and remind them about the keywords and ask them the guided questions again.  At the end of the practice ALWAYS gather your players and recap everything that you did that day.  Ask them every single guided question from all three stages so they walk away having played a lot of soccer and learned something new.

When you recap all of the questions of the day and your player's parent or guardian asks them what they learned, they now have several talking points for their ride home.  The next time your players show up to practice they'll get out of the vehicle and come running to get into a game.

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Miss-Lou Soccer Club
100 Hoffpauir Dr. 
Vidalia, Louisiana 71373

Email: [email protected]

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