Tri-Soccer: Getting More Kicks from Students. (Teaching Tips)

Article excerpt

Physical educators are constantly looking for innovative activities that are simple to set-up and to teach, while also maximizing student practice opportunities. Students often "just want to play the game." While teaching a middle school soccer unit in 1998, the first author observed a need to get all students more involved and active. To address this need, "Tri-Soccer" was created. It is a modified version of soccer that provides for maximum participation and "active learning time." It requires three teams and three goals, but only one ball. This configuration adds a new twist to an old sport.

In the past, when two teams played, the more-skilled students dominated the game, while many lesser-skilled students stood around and watched the action occurring around them. Tri-Soccer was created with the belief that a form of cut-throat soccer would encourage more participation among middle school students. The result was consistent with this belief--all students became involved. After a week of playing this new activity, the overwhelming response from students in each class was, "It is the most fun playing soccer we have ever had."


Tri-Soccer involves three goals and three teams, with all students playing offense and defense. The field is configured as a three-slice pie (each slice is 120 degrees; see figure 1), Goals are set at developmentally appropriate distances from each other to allow for free movement and play. The playing area can be easily adjusted depending on students' skill level and age, and the number of students in a class (e.g., for 30 students in 6th grade, the goals can be set 35 yards from a center-point in the field).

There are no out-of-bounds except for obviously unsafe obstacles (e.g., within 10 to 15 yards of a fence or building). Students can then focus on getting balls to the goal and performing soccer skills such as dribbling, passing, and shooting for a goal. This also forces students to focus more on their eye-foot coordination than on boundaries. Goals should be placed away from fences or buildings to permit play behind and around goal areas.

Equipment and Field Set-up

The three movable goals can be 4 to 6 feet high, 9 to 12 feet wide, and 5 to 6 feet deep. Goals can be bought, or fabricated using 2 1/2-inc PVC pipe and a net to catch balls. Regular soccer goals can be used for students in grades 9 through 12.

If desired, a box (restricted area) may be used to protect the goalie from direct attacks/strikes and to give the goalie a fair chance to block kicked balls. It is permissable for an offensive player to enter the restricted area after striking the ball, as long as there is no interference with the goalie. The goalie box should be larger than the goal and should be located directly in front of the goal.

The teacher should assign students to teams of six to eight players so that student ability levels are equal and fair on each team. Different colored vests or pennies can be used to identify teams (e.g., a blue team, a red team, and a gold team); or, one of the three teams could be a "shirts team" if only two colors of vest or pennies are available. Goalies for each team stand in front of the team goal and defend it. At any time during the game, members of a team may switch positions (it may be possible to rotate every 3 to 5 minutes).

For overcrowded classes (30 to 35 students or more) that contain too many students for a single set-up, two playing areas can be set up side by side, or three playing areas may be set up in a triangle, so that the teacher can be centered between each game (figure 2).

Tri-Soccer Procedures and Rules

Playing Area

* The area should be relatively flat and free of safety hazards. It should be 65 to 70 yards in diameter. A football or soccer field or a playground is effective.

* There is no official out-of-bounds in Tri-Soccer, which permits team members to play behind the goal (as in hockey), and keeps the game active. …