The culture of winning hurts player development



Believing these clubs must be doing a good job, parents are happy to drive their children great distances and freely open their wallets to provide the best opportunities possible. What they fail to realize is this culture of winning can have a significant negative impact not only on their children’s enjoyment of the sport, but ultimately on their development as well. It is a vicious cycle pushing clubs to advertise their trophies rather than their retention and improvement of players’ abilities. In fact, if you ask soccer players for reasons why they enjoy playing soccer, “winning” isn’t even in the top 10 most common answers. As adults, we hijack their experience to satisfy our purposes.

All too frequently, games represent the “big stage” and are overhyped by parents and coaches. For instance, listen to pregame “pep talks” and you’ll too often hear coaches saying things like: “This team is really good, you guys are going to have to bring your A game if you want to beat them.” Or, “Remember, if we don’t play smart out there, they’re going to punish us.” Or, “If you don’t work hard, I’m going to sub you out.” Or, “Last time we played them, they beat us on a bad penalty call. We owe them this time!”

As we discussed in the last post, the optimum environment for learning occurs when the brain is pushed just beyond its comfort zone. However, in an overly pressured, competitive environment, tension and anxiety build to the point that performance, fun and learning suffer. In soccer, children need to have the freedom to be courageous and try new skills they have not yet mastered. They need to exercise their circuits that allow them to think creatively and develop their on field problem solving. Instead, the pressure placed on them by adults to produce a win shapes their play into avoidance of mistakes as the primary goal rather than accomplishing difficult feats.

What do players like Maradona, Gerrard, Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez have in common with each other and so many other soccer greats? During their early soccer careers, they all regarded a soccer ball as a toy, rather than a tool. The street ball environment of mixed ages and abilities, without coaches, parents and trophies, allowed these Young jersey cheapsters the freedom to be creative. By having fun, they were happy to play for hours and hours without getting burned out. Research on elite athletes confirms these champions only began to approach competition from a more serious perspective in their later stages of development (often as teenagers).

Games at this stage of development should be used primarily for learning. This is not just the musing of one idealistic pediatrician. It is supported by elite soccer clubs and coaches throughout the world. Well informed coaches realize is not equivalent Cheap Jerseys from China
to winning. Studies on top level youth academies in England showed, “Despite the elite nature of the programs, winning was de emphasized; no scores or league positions were kept. The focus was on improving and developing individual players rather than the team’s win/loss record.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *