Coaching Development

PBG Coaching Development

Over the last three years, US Soccer has changed its theory and methodology on coaching youth players. We have gone from a systematic structure of 4 specific stages of a training session to a much more open, game-like training session. The two major methods currently being taught in coaching courses and recommended for training around the world are Play > Practice > Play and Reality Based Coaching.
Play > Practice > Play
The goal of play > practice > play is to nurture a love for the game of soccer. We aim to use the game to teach the game! We let kids enjoy the sport, teach them a skill or technique they can use to be more successful, and then let them figure out when and how to use the skills in orchestrated game situations with minimal immediate input from the coach.
  • Stage 1: Play - ‘Deliberate Play'
  • Stage 2: Practice Activities
  • Stage 3: The Game - let them play!
Benefits of ‘Deliberate Play’

A growing body of athlete development literature suggests that engagement in ‘deliberate play’ is important and has a number of positive implications for the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development of children. 

More specifically, research investigating the practice pathway of elite soccer players indicates that high levels of engagement in less structured soccer specific ‘deliberate play’ and practice activities are an important component for attaining high-level performance. The benefits of ‘deliberate play’ include:

  • Increases enjoyment and intrinsic motivation 
  • Promotes motor and cognitive development 
  • Promotes game awareness
  • Promotes inclusion
  • Provides players with frequent ball contact
  • Promotes social interaction and problem solving skills
  • Promotes game-like decision making (i.e., tactical cues) 
  • Contextualizes technical development (i.e., skill = tactical application of technique) 


Reality Based Coaching
Better Environment = Better Players
The training environment has a major impact on developing a player to her/his full potential.  The goal of reality based coaching is to train using the game as a focal point. Based on this thought, drills are only used when they can be directly transferred into relevant game situations for the players. Drills will look like the game on purpose to help players recognize situations where they need to improve and where they are strong to build success.
  • U.S. Soccer has chosen a coaching methodology that will develop players within the 6 key qualities in a reality-based, holistic and experiential environment. 
  • The methodology needs to be seen as a process that guides players to autonomous decision making and execution of player actions. 
  • There is a natural flow between the different phases and the phases aren’t necessarily time bound (physical periodization always needs to be taken in consideration). 
  • Throughout the phases the coach's behavior will change to influence the team and player behavior (positively affect decision making and execution). 
  • The coaching behavior is independent from the (complexity of) training exercise.
The Coach's Toolkit - Managing the Moment
  • FLOW: Coach is now guided to correct and teach within the flow of the game.
  • INDIVIDUAL REFERENCE: Coach is now guided to work with the individual player as the game continues around them.
  • NATURAL: Coach is trained to look for natural stoppages to address the entire team or players.
  • STOP: FREEZE Coach is no longer recommended to "freeze" play to teach or correct.
  • CONDITIONS: Allowing the conditions of the game that is occurring to find opportunities to coach the theme.

Coaching Sessions

Coaching Sessions Video

Coaching Sessions Video