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While that sounds like a simple question a quick look at many practice fields reveals a bewildering answer. Many practices find children facing situations that they never see in an actual match. This should lead a coach to evaluate the practice by first asking, "is it soccer?"

Soccer is a game. The children are involved in an activity that pits them against an opponent. It is, in most cases, about winning and losing, competition and cooperation. It is also a leisure activity. The children are there because they want to be there. They want to play a game.

To play a game of soccer you first need a ball. Then an opponent. Add a field, a couple of goals across from each other, mix in a few soccer rules and you have a game of 1v1. But this is hard work and you can't play it for very long. So you get some teammates, and to keep it fair, a few more opponents. With these elements you can play soccer all day.

These are the elements of soccer. They make the game what it is. If you remove a key element such as the ball or opponent it can't be soccer. Likewise, to change an element too much you can move too far from the game. Playing with two balls or three teams might be fun and a game, but is it soccer? To pass a ball across a grid and run to a corner involves kicking techniques, but is it soccer?

Soccer also involves the element "chaos." Opponents, team mates and the ball are all moving in different directions. Players, parents and coaches are shouting different instructions and information. Bringing "order out of chaos" is an important skill in learning how to play the game.

Soccer is a game with certain elements. There must be a ball, teammates and opponents, a field with boundaries, goals opposite each other and soccer rules.