Start practice with real soccer: U.S. Soccer rolls out its Grassroots 'learning through play' courses in Spanish

I was 9 years old, no kidding, when I became aware of U.S. Soccer Federation coaching schools. In 1975, my father took and passed the C license course taught by Dettmar Cramer in Dallas. He told me about the experience and took me along on the final day of the course. A German immigrant, Horst Woitalla getting in on a course taught by Cramer was like an American taking a basketball class in Germany and John Wooden  showing up to instruct.

My father told me that he sometimes helped Cramer with translation. He also told me how glad he was that, when he went first to run a training session for Cramer's critique, he set it up by memory. The next coach carried a clipboard with him, prompting an emphatic reprimand from Cramer.

When years later I took a much lower level, entry course -- I wasn't impressed. Flipping through the pages of the curriculum I searched in vain for the word "play" amid the complicated drills the adult coaching students struggled with -- yet were supposed to inflict on 6- and 7-year-olds. I preferred the presentations my club gave, and better yet, talking soccer with Manfred Schellscheidt.

In 2018, however, I was impressed by U.S. Soccer's new Grassroots courses, because they advocated Play-Practice-Play training sessions. I always thought it absurd that children who enthusiastically looked forward to playing soccer would instead be forced into drills -- and have to wait until the end for some real soccer-playing. Like dessert for eating your broccoli. Worst was when the "scrimmage" or any games-to-goal were just a sliver of the practice session.

Having goals set up when the kids arrive and getting the game going as the first ones show up makes kids eager to practice and eliminates the wasted time while waiting for everyone to arrive. When the first player arrives, it's one-on-one with the coach, who can step aside when the fourth arrives. Playing first also enables players to expend some of that pent-up energy from sitting in a classroom all day -- and they'll be easier to guide into a slightly more structured (game-like) activity. Practice finishes with another game.

What's most fun about soccer is what children should spend the most time on at practice and it's never been a secret that great players spent lots of time playing soccer as young children.

The Grassroots Courses, which replaced the F and E licenses and emphasize "learning through play," consist of an online intro, and 4v4, 7v7, 9v9 and 11v11 online and in-person courses. The online introductory module is available in Spanish and the in-person courses are being rolled out in Spanish, jugar-practicar-jugar.

The process to also make them available in Spanish was led by Sammy and Sebastian Geraldo (South Texas Youth Soccer Association), Alex Pavon (Illinois Youth Soccer Association) and Alex Perez (North Texas Soccer Association).

"We're excited to announce these courses, as they will help us reach more coaches and impact more players across the country," U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Education Barry Pauwels said in a press release. "Our goal is that licensed coaches are available for every player in every community. This is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to expanding this initiative in the future."

U.S. Soccer says that the Spanish-language courses will continue to improve with feedback from members across the country. And that the coaching education department "aims to continue growing its courses for Spanish speakers in the coming years."

In the mid-1990s, U.S. Soccer hired coaching instructors to be "liaisons" to the Latino community in what was called "Multicultural Outreach and Development," and offered courses in Spanish. More recently, the F license online course was available in Spanish.

The 20-minute online Grassroots introduction is free, while the four online courses cost $25 apiece. The in-person Grassroots courses range from $25 to $95. They are hosted by U.S. Soccer member associations, which those interested in taking a course should contact. Minnesota Youth Soccer and U.S. Club Soccer are hosting the first Spanish-language in-person courses this month.

The English- and Spanish-language intro modules can be found at the U.S. Soccer Learning Center. Step-by-step instruction in Spanish can be found HERE and English HERE.

21 comments about "Start practice with real soccer: U.S. Soccer rolls out its Grassroots 'learning through play' courses in Spanish".
  1. frank schoon, February 25, 2020 at 11:43 a.m.

    First of all ,I want to thank Mike on his article about "Manny" Schellscheidt". It was written in 2012 but it could have been just as well today. I would recommend for you guys to read it ,especially "Manny"s quotes. Besides that, "Manny" comes from my generation, like Peter Bechtold ,although a few years older not much, who were all fortunate to see the growth of soccer and fortunately have seen all the stars play that todays coaches and players never experienced. 

    As you well know I've never been a fan of the coaching school, the issuing of licenses as well as all the other organizational structures along with the dogmatic BS that goes with it. I personally decided in the mid 70's to never obtain a coaching license for I saw coaches obtaining a license that couldn't take on a lamppost one on one which says enough for me. Two, I realized early on that having a license has nothing to do with developing or improving a youth for ,in fact, it is NOT about ' COACHING' when learning soccer but through PLAYING. 

    I began to read a few Dutch coaching books by the KNVB in the 70's and came away very unhappy with all the drills galore it was offering. I felt something was missing and not right. I began to think how I learned the game which was playing in the 'streets' as much as possible, then I began to read autobiographies of Cruyff and other famous players of my generation and found we allk had similary experiences learning the game. The THINGS we all had in common learning the game was as follows, LOVE for the game, PLAYING as much as possible PICKUP games, learning and playing against  OLDER and BETTER players, and wanting and aspiring to be TOP DOG in the neighborhood in other words  have great competitive spirit of wanting to be the best. And most importantly we learned with NO COACHES around!!!! BINGO!  And one more thing, we learned WITHOUT SILLY DRILLS, that have been followed part and parcel as major impetus in teaching the youth for the past 40 years since the days the US soccer program followed Detmar Cramer...  NEXT POST

  2. Hugh McCracken, February 25, 2020 at 12:11 p.m.

    This initiative is long in coming, but very, very welcome. When playing at UCLA in 1969, I took Spanish, and it has yielded a lifetime of friends who are incredibly knowledgeable about the game. 

  3. frank schoon, February 25, 2020 at 12:53 p.m.

    Bottom line to me since I knew back in the 70's was the Coaching and drills element was not necessary in developing the youth but unfortunately this 'faulty of philosophy developing has been THE  major impetus in developing our youth and IN 2018, finally, I mean finally ,as Mike states a new Grassroots program has come about that  emphasizes'PLAYING' the game to learn and develop youth.....Wow, in other WORDS how I learned how I the game..

    Isn't this amazing that all these years the Coaching School was so far off in their philosophy of developing and training players through stressing the NEED for licensing coaches as the important input in developing the youth.  In sum , I believe that there needs to be a 'technical'committee set up to deeply study all the elements of 'street soccer' and apply that to todays youth. If followed through you'll notice the coaching input becomes less and less which runs counter to what the Coaching School has been telling you the past 409years.
    Just a quick note on the 4v4 small sided games. Cruyff was not a fan of it as a matter of fact it is better to play 3v4, 3v3, 2v3 or 5v5 but 4v4   is not suitable for the dynamics of the game. That does not mean that you should not play or simply cut it out 4v4. The best format according to play is 5v5( with a goalie it is 6v6)  for that has the perfect 'dynamic', meaning triangles, open spaces,  and positioning of the ball, it contains all the important playing dynamics, but don't wait till National Coaching gets behind this for that will take another 40years.... 

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, February 25, 2020 at 4:27 p.m.

    Interesting comment about the sides. I always focused on 1v1, then progressed to 3s and 4s--because I was teaching a 433 and that was having them learn to play as a line. 5s and 6s I used as a progression to introduce playing with another line.

    I always though you had to have at least 4 to teach the principles of play, so I can see why Cruyff would prefer 5v5.

    With 7s, you get 3 lines. I don't think it is planned. I think it is just human nature that 7s will play as 3 lines.  

    I think most people get the importance of learning to play as a group about backs, but I think it is even more crucial for midfielders to play as a group. Positioning is how you control the game, supporting both attack and defense.

  5. frank schoon replied, February 25, 2020 at 5:36 p.m.

    Bob, you also have with 5's 3lines. With 5's there are spaces to run into that allows for ball movements. &v7 is fine too. All  small sided games are fine but 4v4 is the appealing but if you want to play 4v4 then do so at times. Whenever I plays small sided each side has goal to defend which,some use two cones for a goal but I employ a ball. This allows for continuity of play,for you can go behind the ball, for there is not out of bounds.

    As a matter of fact I tend to have no out of bounds for that allows players to go anywhere on the field even 50meters behind the goal. And if he comes to a fence ,let us say, I want them to use the fence a wall for a give and go. I don't care if they have catch a bus to get back to the field. I do that for I want these two particular players to fight for the ball, protect it ,shield it , move ,dribble and at the same time try get back to the playing field. And if he loses the ball, then roles are reversed but someone has to win this battle. If a player is able to handle this situation than in a real game he won't have much problem playing under pressure against an opponent.

  6. Ron Benson, February 25, 2020 at 1:15 p.m.

    I agree totally . 
    A little warmup ( 5v2 , passing lines )  , play and stop play when short corrections are needed .
    Restrictions on tbe game may be helpful at times .
    Two touch to encourage vision , plus one touch finishing to encourage assist mentality ( vision ) . 
    Inexperienced players may need some mechanics repetition .

  7. Bob Ashpole, February 25, 2020 at 4:06 p.m.

    The anti-drill rhetoric is just as bad as any other doctrine. With a "drill" I can observe and correct an entire team's technique in less than 5 minutes for whatever the objective of that session is. It also serves as an excellent warmup for that focused movement as well as excellent technical training when followed by using the technique in a game context. It is highly efficient.

    Play-Practice-Play is fine for younger ages when the focus is not on technical training. But when you get to U10 it is inappropriate. Univeral rules are never appropriate when training. What works best varies with the individuals. The more advanced the athlete is along the development path, the greater the need for individualized training.

  8. frank schoon replied, February 25, 2020 at 4:50 p.m.

    Bob, Kids in the street soccer days never practiced drills, for example ,you think they did cone drills to learn how to dribble, of course not . They learned their dribbling in "real time', with real opponents, which also include other factors, unforeseen factors that don't come about doing during drills. A kid would learn to dribble while other situations were going on that could effect his dribbling and would have to change his format at any moment becuase of other factors that come into play....which a drill format doesn't deal with cover for it too static.

     The actual 'playing practice' are drills initself but more fluid, more to real life situations and thus more purposeful. And what is more important to note is the mental part which is employed to deal with the different situations that come into play at any moment which is fluid unlike drills are too rote and static. For example I never teach a player a move without a movement before and after the specific move, in other words in 3's. This allows for the player be more rhythmic in his movements with the ball and therefore able to prepare and counter the opponent after his move.

    In other words when I teach a move to a player ,I will also suggest what could be the possible reaction of the opponent  could be to the move and therefore  prepare for the up coming movement(s) that you need to be ready to counter the opponent again...This is different from drills.  The best I would describe  it is that you can't teach someone to drive a car by first letting him practice turn the steering wheel drills,than a drills how to step on the gas, or do a drill stopping the car by  putting on the brakes. Instead you let the kid ride in traffic ,which is 'practice play' which combines all the elements  and so much more including the mental and other aspects..

    Technical training is not age specific...The only drills kids did in my day was when a kid was alone he would just a kick or pass a ball against a wall or head consistently a ball against the wall and ofcourse he didn't see this as drill, just as a kid with a basketball doesn't see bouncing a ball as a drill

  9. frank schoon replied, February 25, 2020 at 5:39 p.m.

    Bob, in my private clinic I would do a drill for an older player for example a winger. i will teach him a  specific move that he could work on which is specifically related to his position but the move need to be used in game situations for it become worked in, but at least he has the mechanics down.

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, February 25, 2020 at 6:05 p.m.

    It isn't like I was repeating the drills. I was teaching in a progression, technique by technique under increasing pressure. Each step would last only a couple of minutes. The kids loved the drills. Many of them were in the form of relay races. It also made it clear what technique I wanted to see them use that session.

    Depending on soccer age, I think it is appropriate to teach kids how to practice. I like the 1000 touches drill for instance, although I didn't have access to it at the time. What I was showing them was how to practice on their own, either alone or with others. Ball mastery drills, use of cones and walls. 

    On top of that every big name coach I have watched clips of, used drills of some kinds. Even in demonstrations at USC conventions. For instance, thing of all the variations of the 4 cone drill. Pep even had permenant zones marked on his practice field. Calling drills "exercises" is a laugh.

    Now I was very intrigued with an article about 15 years ago about some coaches who taught U10s using exclusively 3v3. Nothing else. I was amazed but concluded that I was not good enough to be able to copy their approach.

    I will give you this much. I agree drills are usually wasted for teaching tactics. I used shadow play briefly only to introduce the system of play, so that the players who understand how all the prior SSGs applied to full sided matches. (the teams never had 22 players, so some compromise had to be made.) I detest pattern passing drills. Never used them as a coach, but performed many of them as a player.

  11. frank schoon replied, February 25, 2020 at 7:25 p.m.

    Bob, I think we're talking about two different things. I'm talking more of individual skill development and you brought more of a team aspect in the mix. That is about as close to explaining it even though I'm not happy in my interpretation of explaining it.  

    In the past 50 years our player skill development has not improved for basically our skill development has been basically nurtured through drill format as taught all these years by the Coaching School. Can you just imagine if our youth played in most part pickup soccer in the past 50 years instead of the drill format, what our players would have been liked.

    Realize when you watch top coaches do drills they do it with players who have great skills, who have gone through all their development stages. Just like the coaches made the big mistake of copying Rinus Michels in how trained Ajax and WC'74 team with Cruyff.  They totally overlooked the technical connection of why Michels did what he did in his practices. And this I find is one of our problems with youth player development is that coaches follow what the professionals do and that is due to National Coaching School's instructing the youth coaches. 

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, February 25, 2020 at 8:24 p.m.

    I am talking about literally teaching a technique to players in isolation without pressure. Which is then followed by building skill in game like conditions of increasing difficulty. So yes I agree that "skill development" needs to be done in games. The end of my training sessions would always involve unrestricted play.

    Does that put us on the same page?

  13. frank schoon replied, February 25, 2020 at 8:48 p.m.


  14. chris keenan, February 25, 2020 at 5:02 p.m.


    I researched, developed and then implemented in February 2013 a 75% technical program 25% experiential learning practice curriculum for my Club named ReThinkSoccer.  I have found that the technical focus of the program below the age of 12 has been the key.  Muscle memory before puberty hard wires a player for life.  The technical focus gives the players the ideas in developing their technical toolbox. Once the players gain the tools they have success and this technique grows into skill.  Positive encouragement is a major factor also.   

  15. beautiful game, February 25, 2020 at 5:18 p.m.

    Great article followed by worthy comments. Grassroots learning is most productive. After Grassroots ends, then the drills can be implemented before ending the session. The more movement the better the learning experience.

  16. John Richardson, February 25, 2020 at 5:56 p.m.

    Horst was my first coach and he made me a life long lover of the game !

  17. Tim Schum, February 26, 2020 at 9:15 p.m.

    The important point being missed in this dialogue is the fact that by attending coaching schools, clinics or by utilizing various individual means (books, videos, etc) individuals can develop a framework for how the game can be taught.

    There are a host of individual and collective soccer exercises to chose from as one goes about coaching the game.

    However much like a physician choses what dose to perscribe, the soccer coach needs to evaluate how what the needs of his team are and then go about setting up practices to address both the group's weaknesses -- and strengths.

    Key to good coaching is honing one's powers of observation. There is no cookie cutter formula for improvement of play. Each individual is different; each group is different.

    By careful and ongoing observation the creative coach begins to understand how to go about applying various strategies to move the collective group to playing good soccer.

    But in blanket fashion to dismiss coaching schools, licences, diplomas as unimportant is to misunderstand the role that such programs have played for many as they have sought to improve their coaching methodology and, in the long run, produce better players of the sport.

    As part of this process, there have been a host of coaches in this country who have also helped develop an enhanced appreciation of the sport's role in our culture.

  18. humble 1, February 27, 2020 at 12:22 a.m.

    I agree with Frank.  Play more and players will learn.  Teach more and players will leave.  Nothing like a bunch of worthless drills pulled off youtube that have nothing to do with what transpired on the pitch last game and what players need to learn. I learned the proper way to teach from a Mexican coach my son had and a Dutch coach he had one season put him in a position he'd never playerd and taught him very little about his new role, but every practice there were new 'drills'.  For me team practice is about team-work not about technique.  Players that need to work on technique should go to technical trainings.  All these licensed coaches, and my son has had many, and not one can read a game and set a practice for a team based on how the team needs to play as a unit and how the players in their specific roles need to play in their contexts.  Only one coach did it out of many.  As for this material in Spanish, seriously, there are many things the latino community needs to be more integrated in soccer, low on the list is gringo designed training on soccer translated to Spanish.  We should doing the converse.     

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, February 27, 2020 at 3:57 p.m.

    humble in my experience the typical U-Little coach doesn't get to select his team, and also is assigned a "team" with a mix of "soccer ages". 1/3 to 1/2 of the players being soccer age "0". I had to repeat my initial U10 season plan every season. That is the biggest frustration of being a "rec" coach.

    On top of that the "experienced" players were all taught to play kick and run bunch ball (you know, the "235" way with 2 backs told to never leave the penatly area). While those kids were experienced in ball skills, they had no clue as to playing off the ball or the principles of play.

    Your comments would be quite appropriate for a "select" coach who select his team from the best candidates or to a coach of players that had actually had decent coaching previously.

    I agree 100% with your comments about players want to play. The challenge of any teacher is keeping the students engaged or they leave. It is easy to tell when kids are engaged by their smiles. 

    One of my favorite sayings was: "Leave it to adults to suck all the fun out of playing a game."

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, February 27, 2020 at 4:26 p.m.

    To put my comments in context, I have always been critical of USSF coaching conventions.

    Before this it was "let the game be the teacher". This approach was used at lower levels because they expected low level coaches to lack knowledge of the game. Intentionally licensing incompetents and seems a strange management approach to me.

    Before that it was the change to small sided games for matches. My view is that SSGs were for training to play the sport, and not the sport itself. I said that they needed to decide whether "matches" were youth matches or were training. If they wanted "matches" to be training, then get rid of the officials and move the coaches from the technical areas to the field to let them both enforce the laws and coach during the run of play. Let the coaches decide on the sides and the field and goals to use. USSF figures most coaches are clueless about the LOTG so they want officials to teach kids the LOTG instead of educating coaches. DUH!

    Finally I never played a USSF sanctioned match until I was 62. I never played organized youth soccer. I never had a soccer coach and organized soccer training until I was 34. I learned to play with Hispanics and my first soccer coach was Hispanic. So the conventional USSF approach seems foreign to me.

  21. Hugh McCracken, February 27, 2020 at 8:26 p.m.

    Size of the field and resources?

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