The importance of a winning mentality in youth soccer
Posted by Dean Holden at April 27th, 2013
by Victor Satei, 7 February 2013
With long term player development (LTPD) being more recognized than ever before, there is a misunderstanding with regards to ‘Winning’ and the ‘Win at all costs’ approach in youth soccer. We need to understand that LTPD is very much about winning, however it is the emphasis on winning that needs to be adjusted depending on the stage of development and the level of play. As players progress through each stage the importance placed on winning becomes greater, however the principles necessary to developing a winner must always be taught.
|The balance of development and winning and how they come together through long term development|
We must nurture and develop the winning mentality in our young players just as much as all the other necessary skills it takes to play soccer at a high level. The game is meant to be won, but its not won so easily. Our players must learn before they can truly call themselves winners. In other words winning happens with experience, knowledge and an understanding of the game. A combination of technical skill, tactical knowledge, psychological strength and physical capability make up the modern day soccer player. The stronger these skills, the more likely they become winners. We can’t expect to win at the highest level if we don’t train to compete at the highest level. Let’s have a look at what it takes to be a winner.
- Technically Sound
- Tactically Sound
- Strong Physically and Mentally
- A Team Player
- Hard Working
And I’m sure we can add to the list. To develop all of these skills it takes years of training, meaningful practice and proper guidance. It requires an environment that allows a player to reach their full potential in all the skills mentioned above. However, we can often become trapped into the belief that winning comes easy and meaningful winning happens early on.
The coach who is seeking the development of winners is not afraid to fail. Understand that failure is part of the long term process. Wanting to win is good, needing to win is detrimental. From the early fundamental stages the desire to win exists, players will possess this naturally without necessary reinforcement and will realize very early on that the objective of the game is to win. It is when winning becomes priority number one that a coach can expect to sacrifice the development of skill in young players.
We will only begin to produce players capable of playing at the highest level once we allow them the opportunity to grow through each stage of the long term development plan. Instilling confidence in players is part of the process. Allowing them to learn from mistakes is necessary along the way. Winning at the younger ages is not a bad thing, it is important though to realize how the winning takes place and what allowed us to win.
Did your team win because you were more skilful and your players had a better understanding of the game? Or did your team win perhaps because you have the bigger, faster and physically stronger players? Did your team show an ability to keep the ball under pressure and build play through each third of the field? Or did your team play in a direct manner, kicking the ball long and hoping that your forwards are quick enough or strong enough to get on the end of it and finish on goal?
We must evaluate our long term objectives as coaches and decide what is best for our young players. It is simple to get on the prowl and recruit youngsters in hopes of piecing together a winning team, but if you are doing it simply to win then you are doing it for all of the wrong reasons. LTPD is not about winning now, its about learning what it takes to win now so we can have meaningful success later.
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