Winning is everything in soccer…or is it? Of course winning is important in soccer. After all, you want a competitive team that can go as far as possible in all competitions. But when it comes to kids between the ages of 10-14 in particular, I believe that player and team development is far more valuable to the learning experience than simply winning a game.
What we are seeing in North America is the mindset of young kids (and also the parents of these children) who want to simply score as many goals and as quickly as possible. This is not the fault of a young child who simply wants to experience the joy of scoring a goal. Take futsal for example, where it is common for each team to score several goals per game. And if one team manages to score five or more goals, many kids may feel they have played well and are even a «good» team. However, proper coaching can correct this and take the children much further in their soccer development which will in turn enhance their careers in the long run.
I am firm believer in playing a particular style of soccer. This style is not always about scoring a goal in the first five seconds of gaining possession of the ball and it does not mean relying on certain player’s individual talent either to carry a team forward either. That is what is called improvisation which is what many teams do on a consistent basis.
Many players can dribble (or learn to dribble), run-around, put pressure on an opposing player/team and think they are playing soccer and even playing it well. However, the game goes far beyond that. With proper coaching, players will learn a more European style of play (proven successful style), a more attractive style of soccer to watch, a more enjoyable way to play soccer which as a result will produce positive results for all involved. And yes these results can still include many goals. This in the long run will take the kids further in their development and their soccer careers rather than winning a regular Saturday afternoon game by a particular margin.
Let`s take a deeper look at the coaching aspect.
Proper coaching and player development for a young age will make a big difference and help raise the game to new levels. I encourage all coaches to enroll in their coaching courses. Often times, coaches have the mentality of «Oh I don`t need those certifications. I have x-years of coaching teams behind me.» And as a result many coaches never bother to enroll. Having been around a variety of coaches over the years from all different levels it is quite obvious who was improvising, who was relying on certain players talent to carry the group, who was a tactician, who was a trainer (and not a coach), who had a plan/strategy/system in place and who did not but painted a good picture for themselves.
Coaches like players need to continue to develop themselves. This does not mean you need to coach a team season after season or take-on as many teams as possible. This can also mean take certain coaching courses, run camps, travel and learn from the set-up of professional clubs and academies. You can also assist with different coaches of different ages to see what they do. There are many options but the idea should be the same as a player. If you see a player 6 months later, he should be much further along in his development. Coaches are no different.
Lastly, if you do not speak the language, learn it as quickly as possible. Proper communication from coaches to players is fundamental to individual and team success. Far too many coaches never bother to learn the English language or how to speak it properly and in essence hinder player development and don`t showcase their true knowledge as a coach.
The game of soccer continues to grow in popularity in North America but still has a long way to go. Proper player and team development will take the game that much further in North America and more enjoyable for all.