Why Winning Isn't a Priority in Youth Soccer


Resisting the Urge to Win

Human nature is the one thing that is very hard to change. However, to be a truly great youth soccer coach we must learn how to overcome our desire to win, or at least win at all costs, which really is a natural behavior.

Our job as youth soccer coaches is to teach young players individual skills and make sure that these skills are not only taught, but also repeated to the point that they become instinctive. We should make sure the young soccer experience is fun and well rounded.

Moving a weak offensive player to the forward position is easy to do when you are up 6-0. However, making this move when you're losing 3-2 is seen as suicide by many. But if you are not allowing rotations on your young teams, you are doing the kids a disservice.

Spending a great deal of time on technical skills is easy at first. However, when we start to lose games we feel we are weak on tactical strategy and we have a tendency to make practices all about tactical work. The much needed "technical training" just seems to disappear.

Here are a few things that add to this difficulty.

  • Parents, a HUGE contributing factor, want their child to be on a winning team. If a team is losing all their games, it's not their child's weak technical skills that are the problem. It is the coach and his game plan that is causing us to lose.

  • We as coaches/humans want to win or be successful in the eyes of others. Unfortunately this is often based on what people see as the public grading--the win/loss record.

  • We often don't sit down with all the people involved and communicate what our goals are for the season. If only a few parents understand that we are not there to win but to learn, then it simply will not work.

A truly great youth soccer coach understands his job is to teach his young players individual technical skills. Our job is not to teach a 10-year old extended tactical vision for the game, but instead give him the mastery of the tools that it takes to play the game.The creativity and vision for the game will only truly come once this process has ended and they can focus on the GAME as a whole. It's hard to be creative when you keep tripping over the ball while dribbling.

Yes, we do give them some basic vision points for the tactical side of the game. However, it does no good to try and teach them a play that has one player feeding in a ball 30 yards, while another player receives it and finishes, if neither can complete the basic skills to make this play happen.

Many of our technical foundations are thrown out the window when the season starts. We start focusing on scrimmages, set up, positioning and plays. We start lecturing 9-year olds about the "thirds of the field", forgetting that all they are looking at is the ball at their feet.

Coaches have a natural human nature to win. That does not make them bad people, just bad youth coaches. Most of us want to succeed at what we do, we just often define the "definition of success" incorrectly.

Until we can break this cycle of winning at all costs and pressured competition, our kids will continue to suffer. Until the definition of "success" in youth soccer is redefined, there will be kids that are being set up for failure at the expense of adult winning.

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