To quote Anson Dorrance, one of the greatest soccer coaches ever: "Competition is key to developing players. The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player is a competitive arena." Coach Dorrance tries to make his practices a "Competitive Cauldron". More about Coach Dorrance is at the end of this article - he has won over 600 games, has a 90% winning percentage and has been Coach of the Year 8 times. Here are some of his tips:
-- In practice, encourage competition.
-- During practice, try to keep score in everything you can -- keeping score encourages competition, 100% effort, game speed, and is more like what player's face in a real game.
-- Competition is critical to developing each player's potential.
-- "Competition is key to developing players. The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player is a competitive arena."
The worst way to practice is, obviously, to just let the kids kick the ball around. There's no structure, no focus on improving skills, and no competition or pressure. Bad habits will be repeated and there will be minimal improvement.
The second worst way to practice is scrimmaging – there aren't enough touches per player, the better players dominate, and it doesn't provide a good opportunity to practice individual skills in a controlled way. Bad habits will be repeated and weaker players will see little improvement.
The third worst way to practice is "Drills". Drills don't involve pressure or competition and don't prepare players for a real game. In fact, drills train players to play slow, because they don't play the drills at Game Speed and under pressure.