There is a blurred line between 'winning', and 'winning at all costs' in youth football. Unfortunately for some young players there are still a large number of coaches that believe development of individual players comes secondary to the scoreline and results of their seasonal campaigns.
Coaches charged with the responsibility of coaching junior teams will be more than familiar with the pressures and level of expectation from parents. Born out of desire to please the parents, give the children something to celebrate, and perhaps satisfy their own personal ambitions, coaches can easily be swept along into exhibiting overbearing and counterproductive methods.
Is there a coaching culture of 'win at all costs' at your junior club? Here's a few indicators to look out for:
- Considerably less playing time afforded to the smaller, or less confident players
- Adoptation and encouragement of an overly-direct tactics and style of play
- Players being forced to panic told to 'get rid of it' rather than take risks and make decisions
- Fixed positional roles and lack of rotation for players to experiment
- Overly critical coach feedback, with a lack of positive reinforcement
- Unwillingness to 'try out' different formations to further players learning
- Aggressive tactics and players been allowed, or encouraged to play recklessly
- Intimidation of opponents being unchecked or challenged
a winning mentality vs win at all costs...
Whilst the coach has a role to play as a mentor and motivator, setting unrealistic expectations for players and expecting too much just heaps pressure on the child and can affect their self-esteem. They don't need to be 'fired up' or shouted at before games, nor at half-time. Full-time debriefs should be progressive and focus on the educational needs relating to the players performance. What did we do well? What would we change next time? What could we do EVEN better?
Kids want to win, some more than others. Our role as coaches is to help them understand the importance of winning, how to go about it, and the importance of trying your best at everything you do. Winning should come as a byproduct of every kid trying their best and playing with freedom, creativity and respect for the team. The shortcuts that can be taken in football such as fouling opponents, dishonesty to referees, clearing the ball up the pitch, diving and so forth are no solid basis for long-term success or personal development. These 'win at all costs' strategies are detrimental to a players technical and psycho-social development, and whilst they may yield results in the short-term, these strategies are likely to produce selfish, dishonest, and technically deficient players in the future.
A healthy and well balanced 'winning' mentality is built on the following pillars. Young players should always be able to answer YES to these questions:
- Persistance - Did I keep trying for the team and myself, regardless of the score?
- Pride - Can I be proud of the way that I played and the things I tried to do?
- Performance - Did I play good technical football and try to do clever things?
- Respect - Was I a good sportsman and did I play by the rules?
- Reflection - What can I be even better at next time? Am I willing to change my game?
- Receptive - Did I listen to feedback and think about what was said?
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