Both the ‘freestyle‘ game and the ‘structured‘ game are critical.
But much like the rec & pro mindsets, each has their place.
This is the place for tons of experimentation and individual play.
This is where you “let the kids play”.
- Dribble all you want
- Long ball all you want
- Play on pavement, dirt, weeds, mud, … whatever
- Thread the needle as a center back
- Shoot all you want
- Meg people in your defensive 3rd
- Try all kinds of fancy stuff on any part of the field
- Go in hard or don’t go in hard
- Stay in, or stray out of, position
- Pass the ball whenever you feel like it
- Experiment with your shooting and step overs
… you get the idea.
These are the pick up games – the street games.
Much, if not most, individual technique, creativity, and needed swagger are shaped here.
Formal Structured and Competitive
This is the place for learning fundamental principles of the game. Meaning, deep tactical understanding (decision-making). The team game.
This is not the place to “let the kids play”, as described above.
Now, don’t go bananas …
read that again:
“… the place for learning fundamental principles of the game.”
Yes, a big component is making mistakes. But mistakes must be identified and corrected.
You absolutely do not let them persist and hope players will magically correct themselves with some misguided notion that “the game is the best teacher“.
- What a mistake is and its gravity, is guided by your philosophy.
- How you attempt to correct it; your methodology.
- Your capacity for rectifying; your coaching quality and environment.
But again I must repeat, this is where you should be learning the team game. This is first and foremost, the arena for development of the player in the team context, not the individual context.
Soccer is not “a player’s game“.