When does winning start to matter?

Discussion in 'Youth & HS Soccer' started by NewDadaCoach, Feb 16, 2020.

  1. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I'm wondering, for all of you parents and coaches and parent-coaches... how do you view winning VS development? It seems to me that starting out, at the early ages (U6-U8 let's say)... that winning should not matter at all; it's all about getting exposure to the game/learning/fun. But there obviously comes a point where winning starts to matter. Is that around age 9? 10? 14? Does the importance of winning increase as the age group increases?
    I imagine the answer might also be different for parents vs coaches. If you were a parent (non-coach) did you ever disagree with the coach's perspective on winning vs development? (or vice versa, if you were the coach did you butt heads with the parents on this, or maybe they didn't care and just left it up to you)
     
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  2. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    A few random thoughts…

    Winning is more fun than losing, therefore it always somewhat matters…I don’t think it’s possible to love a sport without, at least, occasionally tasting victory…regardless of the age we are talking…

    However, also regardless of age, winning is never that important nor more important than development and/or playing good soccer…at least IMHO.

    Good, healthy, competitive competition is far more important than the final score line…I’d take a hard fought 2-1 loss over an easy 0-7 victory any day; that easy victory is like cotton candy; sure, it tastes good in the moment, but it’s completely void of nutritional value …if you are playing at the right level, against the right competition, every game to be a 50/50 chance of victory. The ideal season record should be .500…you win some, you lose some while playing against good, solid competition…sure, you can have a good season, a good weekend, or a win a Cup…but if your team never loses, in most cases, that’s a red flag in my book…

    As a parent, as long as my son plays hard, plays well…I could give two shits what the final score is…my son has been part of great victories and gut wrenching losses…both build character both on and off the field…
     
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  3. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    #3 bigredfutbol, Feb 17, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
    I think this is a great question, or at least it's a question that gets at some broader questions. There IS a point, I believe, where the individual skills and tactical awareness you're learning as a player should begin to translate into being an effective part of a team, not just a good individual player.

    I pretty much agree with this. Your point that an ideal youth soccer season would have a .500 record is a great one--you're not a 'competitive' team if you're beating (or losing against) every team you play.

    My only caveat would be that once players are in their mid-to-late teens, they should start developing a better tactical sense of the game--and that includes knowing how to do things like defend a lead and do the smart things that win games as a collective unit. I do think one of the shortcomings of American youth soccer is in tactical development. Winning vs. losing doesn't really matter for individual player development, but IMHO does factor in to developing a better tactical awareness of the game--which, again IMHO, should come later for youth players.

    Focusing on learning how to win should come later (maybe not until HS), and the emphasis should be coming from coaches and the players themselves, not the parents.
     
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  4. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Illinois
    Funny story, we played Team Chicago and there were som real nasty parents on their end of the field. In fact the ref had to address them just twice. One mom responded "We're just trying to help!"

    Another dad was yelling on the sidelines and I reminded him that this was the second flight in the tourney - not the world cup. He sat down right next to us in a manner that seemed to promote intimidation but within 5 minutes - I realized this guys was okay - just caught up in the moment and not like many of the other parents.

    At half time he said too me and another dad... "We (TC) yell at the ref and your players while you are just focused on your kids".

    I said too him that I only care how my kid plays - I have no concern about winning at all - period. If she is smiling, having fun, improving and pushing herself, then the outcome of the game is completely out of the equation.

    The other dad on the team agreed and laughed and said we are our kids worst/best critics depending on how you look at it.

    IMO it's a great place to be as a parent - at least as far as my experience has been.
     
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  5. Longtucky

    Longtucky New Member

    Arsenal
    United States
    Feb 17, 2020
    USA
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think once you hit the HS age groups that is when winning truly starts to matter. Rule of thumb for me:

    U4-U8: learning to play
    U9/U10: Learning to train
    U11-U14: Training to compete
    U15-U19: Competing to win

    Within each of those age ranges I think winning plays a role because winning is fun, and we should always be competing and trying to do our best. However, from U4-U14, I believe players, coaches and parents should be focusing on developing technical skills, tactical knowledge, and good habits that will allow the player to be successful in a wide variety of soccer environments. I think if the focus is on those components, winning matches will occur with more frequency as the player ages.
     
  6. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    After reading some comments, let me revise my query a bit. I guess I'm thinking more from a high-level perspective. So like... let's say you're coaching a team... you have to decide who plays (ie how many minutes each player plays), and you decide who plays in what position, etc. My question is - to what degree are you making these decisions to optimize your chances of winning? OR, should the coach play each kid equally and rotate positions for the sake of maximizing development only?

    I would think that a parent would only care they their individual kid is getting to play. But a coach would have a different perspective.

    I guess you have answered (and others have too) in that the emphasis on winning "comes later". That makes sense. But it is hard to adopt. Case in point, my kid's current coach plays a very slow kid in goalie (for part of the game) and it costs us goals and basically makes it impossible to win. If I were coach I would probably not play this particular kid in goalie at all. What's the point? It doesn't make sense to me. Let him play goalie in the backyard pickup game; but if you're playing in a league that everyone paid money for and has a ref and scoreboard, why kill your chances to win when you can make an easy adjustment? But maybe that's wrong. Maybe I shouldn't care at all. I know that at this age its not about winning and its about just playing. But I also think there's no point in setting a team up to fail, even at U6. Very minor tactical tweaks can be made, even in recreational type play, to optimize a team.
     
  7. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #7 NewDadaCoach, Feb 17, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
    I like this outline/timeline. It nicely illustrates at a high-level how the emphasis between development vs winning evolves through the age groups.

    But, do you think that if a kid is on a team that always loses, will that affect his desire to play? Maybe he quits the sport because he's feeling dejected from losing? Would it affect his psychology as opposed to winning 50% or winning 100%? Would it affect his trajectory in the sport as he grows up?
    It seems that winning between say 25-75% of the games would be ideal at U-little stage, to keep the kids engaged and not dejected on one end and not too cocky on the other (from always winning).
    I coached last year, not coaching now, but may coach next year, so am thinking about this. Do I try to "recruit" players that will help us win (or at least be competitive)? To be honest, I kind of am doing that now; sizing up kids to see if I want them on my team next year. But maybe I should just let the league pick the kids (they will put random kids on a team with my kid, rec league U6/U8).
     
  8. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Why is there a goalkeeper at the U6 level?
     
  9. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #9 NewDadaCoach, Feb 17, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
    There wasn't in outdoor, but there is in indoor now.
    Outdoor feels more laid back as there's no ref (coaches act as refs) and there's no scoreboard. In indoor it's quite official, with even a formal scorekeeper (in addition to ref), which probably elevates the feeling of wanting to "win". It's a bit overkill for U6 tbh, but also kinda fun.
    To answer your question I'm not sure why; it's just how the league does it.
     
  10. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    If you are paying to play (everyone writes the same check amount), then it’s mostly equal playtime and ideally positional rotation…

    If you are not, (like High School), then its optimizing your chances of winning…

    I think your kid should play goalie instead, while this kid takes your kids spot up top....Is that the minor tactical tweak you had in mind?
     
  11. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Coach ought to rotate a bit more, I suppose, but maybe this kid WANTS to play keeper or is at least more willing than the other kids.

    When my son played U6 and up, maybe all the way to U9 there were tourneys and scrimmages where every kid took turns trying the position out.

    Winter will be over before you know it. And to be clear, while you sorta come across a bit too over-zealous, I actually do get your point now that you've given some context--it's not so much about "playing to win @ U6" as it is (from your perspective) "needlessly losing." Kids may not care that much about results per se, but they don't like unfairness.

    Still, my advice is to grin and bear it for a few more weeks--outdoor will be here soon enough.
     
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  12. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    One other thing--I've watched a fair bit of U-Littles playing indoor and...there aren't very many even half-decent keepers at that age.
     
  13. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    No I think any of the other kids would be ok in goalie, just not the slowest youngest kid (he's not slow for his age, it's just that he's very young, so he has older, faster kids shooting goals on him).
    To be fair, the coach rotates various players in goalie, ie not only this slow-tiny-young kid plays. I would probably do the same minus the slow-tiny-young kid. That minor change alone would at least give us closer to a 50% chance to win. But oh well, not a big deal in the big scheme of things.
     
  14. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019

    Thanks for the sound advice. Yes I am over-zealous. Not proud of that; kinda runs in the family ha
     
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  15. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    True. In this case there's a big age gap. This young kid is 2-3 years younger than the other kids. (yes at U6) so yeah, he's very good for his age, but at U6, 2 or 3 year age gap will make a huge difference in reaction time, skill, etc.
     
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  16. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I got a bit caught up in it all when my kid was little--I was WAY into soccer having become a new fan of the sport just after he was born; regretted not having a chance to play as a kid myself (grew up in a rural area in the 70's & 80's); and had zero experience in the youth soccer world so I certainly lacked perspective on lots of things.

    It happens--trust me, I'm very empathetic.
     
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  17. Longtucky

    Longtucky New Member

    Arsenal
    United States
    Feb 17, 2020
    USA
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    At the u-little level adults remember the score/standings far more than the kids. You know what the kids remember? Being with their friends and enjoying the fact that their parents are there watching them play. Once they age up into maybe U8/9/10, they'll start caring about winning a bit more. I believe the adults almost always care far more about the winning than kids do - even at the U18/19 level where that is what you're supposed to work toward!

    Winning at the u-little matters little to none. Having fun, learning about the game and developing technique is far more important.

    To answer another question you asked above, re: positions, I have a very general rule of thumb for that too (ha!):

    U4-U8: Every kid plays every position. No players are 'defenders' or 'strikers' and even the big fast kid who scores 15 goals a game must play defense at times. Also, equal playing time. No one is a GK.

    U9-U11: Every kid has a role. By that I mean, maybe a kid is a fantastic defender so we play him anywhere along the backline and occasionally at holding mid and other more offensive positions. A striker can make a good CB, in my experience, or play any of the wings. So, a bit more specialization, but still getting kids opportunities to play in more advanced areas of the field, or in the back line. No one is a GK

    U12-U14: Every kid starts to specialize. At a very high level, you're a defender, midfielder, or forward. We start to have set GKs. Some kids might start to specialize in a set position as they hit that U14 age.

    U15-U19: Specialization by position. Working toward becoming the best at that position.
     
  18. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    I've said before DS has pretty much been a defender most of his career. At the above age group though, one of his coaches had a mantra... "you can score from defense". DS did it a couple times a year (and still does). Whether it's making a good run (with the ball or in support) or off a corner, just because you're on defense doesn't mean you can't score goals.

    I know you didn't say that and wasn't trying to imply that you did, just using your quote as a launching point.
     
  19. jmnva

    jmnva Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    Arlington, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Coaching in a rec environment, I've never cared about winning (OK not entirely true-- there are coaches whose style I don't like so I'm happy when my team wins).

    Until my teams get to about U12, I do a lot of player rotation. At U13 and up, kids really have a position that they like playing more and I generally let that happen.

    On the playing time issue-- I do my best to give everyone equal time.
     
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  20. TheKraken

    TheKraken Member

    United States
    Jun 21, 2017
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Winning always matters. U9 7v7 requires a certain way to bunker down in the face of an onslaught. I would recommend a 3-3 formation with your best player in the middle of the front line. Tell every kid that if it gets near the box just boot it up field to him. Have the wingers give some support, but make sure they're fast. If outside the box, your defenders' fouling is encouraged. A 0-0 draw is much better than us getting our arses handed to us 4-nil. When in doubt, kick it out. That is our motto.
     
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  21. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I'm
    If I may go off topic for a sec, I'm curious - how do you approach teaching passing within these age groupings?
     
  22. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    Interesting take. I think you're gonna get some flak for this on this site, but I have no problem with it. Different strategies can work...
     
  23. Longtucky

    Longtucky New Member

    Arsenal
    United States
    Feb 17, 2020
    USA
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I guess different strokes for different folks. I disagree and think this method doesn’t teach the kids anything of value. Also goes against every coaching course methodology and philosophy I’ve taken. But i guess if winning is all that matters, then yes, take this approach.
     
  24. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #24 NewDadaCoach, Feb 18, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
    After more thought, let me revise... Perhaps you could say that winning always matters... but its a matter of exactly how much. Let me attempt to quantify the "how much" in %.

    Age : % matters
    5-7 : 0-5%
    8-10 : 20%
    11-13 : 40%
    14-16 : 65%
    17-18 : 95%

    ... or something like that...

    Adjust the %'s based on the club's philosophy. If playing at Dallas FC academy U19, for ex, winning would matter 95+%. At college it's 99%. At pro it's 100%.

    At U9 I don't think winning matters much. You might be mixing "matters" with "should try to win".... they should always try to win. They should try their best. But as a coach you should not emphasize winning over development at U9. That is when you start to sit weak/slow players because you don't want to lose and that's not ok at U9 because at that age there are no stakes (though maybe you could trim their minutes a bit to prevent a hammering, it's all relative); it's just an ego boost.
     
  25. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I think I sorta understand what he's saying. The coach can prevent a "onslaught" by arranging the players a certain way; I mean, I don't think there's anything wrong with optimizing the players you have, or tweaking them based on the opposition. I don't think that necessitates sacrificing development... though it can if say you're being overzealous about it and only playing the best kids and not playing the weak kids at all and screaming your head off at every little thing. But if there is a mismatch (ie onslaught), that is sort of a unique situation where if tactics can minimize damage then it should be considered.
     

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