Youth Soccer Player Development vs Winning at All Costs
We hear it all the time: there is too much emphasis on “winning at all costs.” Yet how many times have you gone to a game and heard parents yelling at the kids to do what it takes to score goals and win? Coaches are told from one side that development is the priority in youth soccer, but then see their decisions questioned when the team loses.
At the top, Directors of Coaching have the unenviable task of balancing these often competing elements – winning versus player development. What do DOCs really think about winning games compared to developing successful players? SoccerNation spoke with top Southern California Directors of Coaching and a former international player turned professional coach for their insights.
For the first part of this new series on player development, SoccerNation spoke with Teddy Chronopoulos of Chivas USA Youth Academy to get their insights.
Teddy Chronopoulos: Chivas USA Youth Academy Director
How do you balance player development and winning?
Our program is based on long-term goals. Winning should not override the process of developing kids in our program. It's not about winning games. It’s about winning your individual battles on the field and knowing your role within your team.
Too many kids do not know their functional role on the field. Being able to teach a right back to play his position effectively is more important for their long term growth as a player. In the end, they are a byproduct of both.
If you develop players properly, you will win games.
How important is winning?
We teach our kids to compete. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, is a kid going to remember what he won at age 10? No.
Our job is to create a great environment for the kids and work to communicate what their expectations are as an academy player. The parents’ role in their child's development is just as important as the coach’s role.
If your players paid to play, would you coach differently?
No. Your job as a coach is to develop players. For us, it's to develop players for our first team and college. We have programs for our players who are going to college and those who are being looked at for the pro team. Either way, every kid is prepared for when they leave our academy.
Do you believe a club's reputation is impacted by their teams' winning records?
It all depends on your club’s philosophy. If you set a strong foundation from the beginning at the younger age groups and set your objectives for each age group, you will create a winning environment. We look at how many Youth National Team kids we have. We currently have 11 players in our youth national team system (U14 through U23). I think that's a pretty good measurement on how our program is doing.
We also look at how many players we have playing up. How many 16's are playing on the 18s and how many of the 18s are training with the professional first team or reserves? We obviously start this at U8 and move on up. That is what is most important to us.
When do you coach to win?
I don't think a coach ever goes into a game wanting to lose.
We have certain objectives we want to accomplish game to game. One game we may want to improve on how we get out of the back. What are our center backs reads and looks when playing against 1 forward as opposed to 2 forwards.
Are you going to make mistakes? Yes, that's part of the process. If we are doing our job and the players are developing correctly, then winning becomes a byproduct of the development process.
What is the difference?
We have goals and objectives at the beginning of the season. What tournaments we are going to and what do we want to get out of each tournament. State or National Cup, Surf Cup and any out-of-state tournament (such as Dallas Cup) are the obvious ones you want to do well in.