It’s a players game

One thing I’ve come to believe strongly over the years as both a player, a head coach and an assistant coach is that soccer is a players game. The ability of coaches to directly influence a game is far less than it is in other American sports. Sure, we coaches work hard to plan and run good training sessions and we try to set our team out so it can be competitive, but games are won and lost by players. That’s why I believe that in youth soccer. nobody should care more about the results than the players. Not parents. Not coaches.

On one of the teams I assistant coach right now, the U14 head coach is completely obsessed with winning a trophy (finishing first or second in the division). On the way to practices, he doesn’t talk about how players are doing or what he’s going to work on in practice. He talks about every single possible permutation related to his team finishing at least second.

The weird thing is I don’t think he’s obsessed with getting a trophy for the reason of satisfying his own ego. He seems to truly believes that the boys equate having a good experience with having a trophy to bring home. Many of them don’t have a lot of previous experience in actually winning soccer games and he thinks that them winning and having a trophy will keep them hooked into the sport and our club. That’s a fundamental misreading of the kids.

As I’ve mentioned before, these kids, like most kids, just want to play and have fun. They’re winning games and scoring a lot of goals and playing some really nice soccer and getting better individually. They *are* having fun. I’m sure they would love to have a trophy but I don’t think them having a good experience  depends on this. I’ve never once heard the kids ask what position we are in the standings or what position gets a trophy or what we have to do in the remaining few games to get a trophy. I don’t think I’ve heard one of them even mention the word trophy.

If they narrowly finish third, the head coach may be crushed, but the players won’t be. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

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