I believe in a competitive, game-based approach to soccer. Game-based soccer training is the philosophy that all practice activities can and should be turned into a game. By “game,” I mean that there are winners and losers. The players can be competing against themselves, each other, in teams, or all together against a target. There should always be consequences for the losing person/team in this approach. It does not have to be a big consequence, but the players should develop a mindset in which it pays to win. Consequences should depend on the activity/game, but they can range from a few sit-ups to a short sprinting exercise – it should be just enough to motivate the players to try harder to win next time!
Using a Game-based approach helps to create an environment in which every player is incentivized to compete at his or her highest level. This is where the biggest developmental gains are made, both individually and collectively. How do you set up an environment where players are always incentivized to give their best? Make everything a competition with consequences for the losers. As the coach, it is up to you to determine the most productive ways to define competition for your team; for example, some games are more suited for competing against an external target, a player competing against his previous best score, or two individuals/teams facing off against each other. The goal is to make the consequence just enough to incentivize the player/team that lost to try harder next time and also to encourage the winning team to up their game so that they don’t have to do the consequence.
How do you create the most effective learning environment with your team?