How to Use Patches to Motivate Players

How Many Patches to Give Out at Practice?

4-Step Plan to Motivate Soccer Players

"The patches are the absolute best motivational tool I have found" Chad, CA

"I am so excited to have found you, I have been paying $1 a patch." April

"We are going to be using the patches as a reward to the Honor Roll Students in. They will receive a different color for each term that they make Honor Roll along with a certificate. The patches are good because the kids can put them on their back packs, jackets, scrapbooks or whatever they choose." Michelle, Mass. Middle School

Where to Put Soccer Patches The ideal place to put patches is on the player's jerseys or shorts. But if that isn't allowed, there are good options such as a special Practice Jersey or T-Shirt, a "Soccer Pride T-Shirt or Jersey", on a key chain, duffle bags or equipment bags, backpacks, on a team banner near each player's name, on a team "sandwich board" at practices so all the players can see their progress, on 2-inch wide ribbons, on pre-cut banners that we are told can be bought at crafts stores such as Hobby Lobby, on warm-up jackets, or just as collectibles. Another idea is to let the players put them on a special Practice Jersey (this could be a T-Shirt) that is worn to practice, to the season end party, and that players can wear during warm-ups if they can change before the game. Players could even wear this casually for fun. To be effective as a motivational tool, it is best if the players can see them at practice, games or both. Also, make a big deal of giving them out. You can give them as an immediate reward, or in a ceremony at the end of practice or at the end of the game where all the players see who is getting them and why... I found this to be an excellent motivational technique.

How to Use Soccer Patches to Motivate Players

There are many ideas at the Patch Testimonials from coaches. Basically, you can use the SoccerHelp patches to help achieve your objectives, and this varies from team to team. Use them to motivate your players, to get them to come to practice, to encourage hustle and aggressive play, to encourage learning soccer moves, for good defense, for listening to the Coach, or for anything you want to encourage.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Practice Attendance -- We all know how hard it is to motivate kids to come to practice or to practice on their own time. We also know how important it is for kids to come to practice. Soccer is a team sport. It's impossible to practice or teach some things such as formations if your kids don't come to practice. Your team will definitely play better if your players come to practice. If you want to encourage practice and game attendance you might want to give a Black/White patch each time a player comes to practice or a game (Or even better, give a different color for each 4 to 6 practices. Example: when they have earned 4 Black/White patches, then they start getting a Blue/White patch; and when they get 4 of those they start getting Orange/White, etc. At the end of the season, give a Gold Star patch for perfect practice and game attendance, and ONLY give the Gold Star for that. And give a Blue Star patch to players with a 90% attendance record. This approach is probably better than just giving Black/White because it would be more motivating and fun). I can tell you for certain that teams play much better if most of their players come to practice.
  2. If you want to encourage Aggressive Play and Winning the Ball, you might give out the Red/White patches or a Red Star patch (we call them Blood Patches or Bravery Patches), but give these sparingly and make a BIG DEAL in front of the entire team of getting one of these and praise bravery, hustle and toughness. This approach really works; it worked for me. Remember, not every kid can be a good athlete, but every kid can hustle and be brave.
  3. If you want to encourage good defense, then decide how you will determine this (is it a team effort of limiting the opponent to 1 goal or less?). Example: if the opponent only scores one goal or less everyone gets a Green/White patch.
  4. If your team isn't scoring many goals, it could be beneficial to use the patches to motivate your players to do the things that can produce goals, and Team Attacking. Examples of behavior that you want to teach and encourage include: getting in front of the opponent's goal (most goals are score in front of the goal, and the more players you have there, the better your odds), stealing the ball from a defender and scoring in your "Attacking Third", being alert and in position for rebounds, being aggressive, brave, alert and hustling. In brief: if your Forwards and Midfielders are in position, alert, aggressive and hustle, your team will score goals. Over half the goals in Rec games are scored using the inside of the foot. Placement is more important than power. Shoot low and toward the corner... from inside the Penalty Box a groundball is more likely to score than a hard kicked air ball, because the shot will be more accurate (think about how many hard kicked balls totally miss or go straight to the Goalie), although on a wet field "Chip" shots can be effeective because the Goalie will have trouble catching them. If your team is U8 or older, you should start to think about Team Attacking and Team Defending. Read ideas for how to teach and motivate Team Attacking at www.soccerhelp.com/soccer-articles/091130-soccer-team-attacking.shtml . SEE BELOW FOR MORE ABOUT THIS.
  5. You can use them to encourage kids to participate or behave at practice.
  6. You can use them to encourage kids to listen to the coaches and follow instructions.
  7. Do you want to encourage assists or unselfish play?
  8. Do you want to encourage running or speed training?
  9. Do you want to encourage players to learn "Moves"? (which they can practice at home)
  10. Do you want to encourage kids to practice at home?
  11. Or to practice Juggling? (which they can practice at home). Example: increase your juggling by 10 and get a Gold/Blue Patch or a Red Star patch.
  12. For another example of how to use them, the Baltimore Soccer Academy developed a program called the "Outstanding Individual Achievement Program" ("OIA"). They used the patches as rewards for achievements such as mastering skills, improvements in speed, juggling, getting good grades and attendance.

How Many Seasons On a Uniform? Regarding how many seasons to allow patches to build up, you will have to decide, but I don't see a problem of leaving them for at least a year. You could limit them to one area of the shirt for one season and another area the next, or you could use different colors (we have 18 different patches).

Patches Are Usually Done on a Team Basis or by the League or Sponsor. Mostly the patches are done on a team basis, but Kay tells me we sell them to over 100 organizations or leagues (we know because they order several thousand of them and we can set up a special account for them).

We have sold over a million patches. I hope these help. The patches worked for me when I coached, and that's how I got the idea for them. We include instructions for how to iron on the patches with each order and there is a link above. If you have better ideas, please let us know. Thanks, David and Kay at SoccerHelp.

How to Use Patches to Increase Scoring

Recent correspondence has caused me to re-think the use of patches as a motivation to score goals. (This only applies to U-8 and older). From David at SoccerHelp.

The letter I refer to was sent to the Forum by a coach whose team was playing great and dominating games in every way except scoring. They controlled the ball for 80% of the game, but were only scoring one or two goals per game. The coach thought he needed to practice shooting. My thought was that the reason his players weren't scoring was because they weren't in position to score, or weren't aggressive about "finishing". In brief, they needed to be taught "how to score" and motivated to be more alert and aggressive when in scoring range. Also, in his case (where his team is dominating the game) it would help to encourage one-touch shots when in front of the goal and to be more aggressive about shooting.

If your team is scoring a lot of goals, I still think it's better to not give patches for goals. But, if your team doesn't know how to score goals or isn't scoring enough goals, it could be beneficial to use the patches to motivate your players to do the things that can produce goals. For example: getting more Forwards and Midfielders in front of the opponent's goal (most goals are score in front of the goal, and the more players you have there, the better your odds), stealing the ball from a defender and scoring in your "Attacking Third" or "Attacking Half", being alert and in position for rebounds, playing off the Far Post, being aggressive, alert and hustling. In brief: if your Forwards and Midfielders are in position, alert, aggressive and hustle, you will score goals. Over half the goals in Rec games are scored using the inside of the foot. Placement is more important than power. Shoot low and toward the corner... from inside the Penalty Box a groundball is more likely to score than a hard kicked air ball. Once your team learns how to score, you can discontinue giving patches for scoring.

I hope some of this helps. Please let us know if it does, or if you find any better ideas.

How Many Patches?

How many patches you will need depends on how you plan to use them to motivate your players. So, the first thing to do is to think about what you want to achieve.

For example, if you want to encourage practice and game attendance you might want to give a Black/White patch each time a player comes to practice or a game (Or even better, give a different color for each 4 to 6 practices. Example: when they have earned 4 Black/White patches, then they start getting a Blue/White patch; and when they get 4 of those they start getting Orange/White, etc. At the end of the season, give a Gold Star patch for perfect practice and game attendance, and ONLY give the Gold Star for that. And give a Blue Star patch to players with a 90% attendance record. This approach is probably better than just giving Black/White because it would be more motivating and fun). I can tell you for certain that teams play much better if most of their players come to practice.

If you want to encourage Aggressive Play and Winning the Ball, you might give out the Red/White patches or a Red Star patch (we call them Blood Patches or Bravery Patches), but give these sparingly and make a BIG DEAL in front of the entire team of getting one of these and praise bravery, hustle and toughness. This approach really works; it worked for me. Remember, not every kid can be a good athlete, but every kid can hustle and be brave.

If you want to encourage good defense, then decide how you will determine this (is it a team effort of limiting the oponent to 1 goal or less?). Example: if the opponent only scores one goal or less everyone gets a Green/White patch.

Do you want to reward assists?

Do you want to encourage running or speed training?

Do you want to encourage players to learn "Moves"? (which they can practice at home)

Or to practice Juggling? (which they can practice at home). Example: increase your juggling by 10 and get a Gold/Blue Patch or a Red Star patch.

For another example of how to use them, go to the Baltimore Soccer Academy website and click on the Outstanding Individual Achievement Program or "OIA Stars" at the top. They use the patches as rewards for achievements such as mastering skills, improving speed, juggling, getting good grades and attendance.

Think of the things you really want to achieve and to teach and how the patches can be used to motivate your team. Put it on paper and add up how many patches of which color. That's the best way. Now, did I start out this way? NO!!! It took me years of using the patches and trial and error (I used them for about 5 years) and I have the benefit of receiving ideas from hundreds of coaches. If you come up with some good ideas please share them and please share ideas that work and get results. That way everyone will benefit.

As a rule of thumb, I would say that most coaches will give out 10 to 20 patches per player during a season if they are giving patches for practice attendance. This is what I did and when I bought them they were 55 cents each. SoccerHelp's prices are much less. For example, as of January 2007, you can buy a 150 pack of Star Patches for 33 cents each and a 180 pack of soccer ball patches for 32 cents each.

Parents often contribute to buy the patches.

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The patches can be used for many purposes. Here are a few:

-- Positive Reinforcement: All players at some point hustle, pay attention, help a teammate, etc. The patches give coaches the opportunity to recognize players doing a good job. This league is about developing players and having fun within a competitive environment.

-- An example of why Positive Reinforcement is important: I don't know too many parents telling their little babies as they are learning to walk: "Just give up already", "You can just crawl your whole life". "That's not the way you learn how to walk." "Can't you just walk, I've been explaining it for weeks to you." When a baby is learning to crawl, we applaud them on trying even though they keep falling down on their face. We applaud for days, weeks, months and smile at them and tell them "almost there, keep going, you can do it." The same principle must be applied to our players and the patches allow a tangible way to do this.

-- Incentive: Players begin to look at the patches they have and want more patches of the same or others. With each patch having its own meaning, players then must do the things correctly (paying attention, having a good attitude, passing the ball for an assist, etc.) to merit the patch. This helps the players become more complete players and allows the coaches to also remind players what each patch means and how the players can earn them.

Ideas for Using Patches:

Blue Star for Bravery: earned by getting knocked down and getting up. Being a stalwart defender or relentless forward who chases the ball down.

Gold Star for Assist: players who pass the ball to a teammate who then kicks the ball in the goal. Can aid in getting players to keep the ball moving and others involved.

A for Attitude: players keep hands to themselves when not playing, keep a positive outlook during the game (don't sulk or whine), and have a smile on their face.

Happy Face for Good Sportsmanship: Players shake hands, help opponents up, are encouraging their own players while they are not playing.

Lightning Bolt for Attention: Players are paying listening with eyes and ears to their coaches and do well with instruction.

Blue & Red Soccer Ball for Participation: Players have attended a practice or game.

Christian Patches



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