This episode touches on the evergreen topic of Winning versus Development.
Here again we find ourselves having to work upstream against the misguiding currents of American soccer media and culture.
In the States, the narrative being pushed is that winning at the youth levels doesn’t matter. So much so, that clubs, teams, coaches, anyone really that ascribes a bit too much importance to winning, is actually harming player development.
Well folks, this hardline that’s been and continues to be pushed is mostly nonsense.
If the context is “competitive youth soccer”, the opposite is more true.
Meaning, that this culture of “winning doesn’t matter” is what’s actually harming player development.
This culture of “everyone gets a trophy”, “everyone gets a passing grade”, “everyone deserves equal playing time”, so on and so forth, is where the harm lies.
Does winning matter in development?
The answer is a resounding yes.
But per usual, the key here is recognizing this is an optimization problem.
It’s not all one thing or the other, both winning and development are inextricably linked.
Unfortunately, too many will recoil with standard objections like:
- Gary, check out this article where world class player X, and/or coach Y, and/or club Z, is quoted saying “winning doesn’t matter at the youth level. We at club X don’t care about wins and losses, etc …”
- Gary, did it really matter that Christian Pulisic won or didn’t win this or that particular U14 competition?
Cool, I totally get it.
I see how this makes sense to so many.
But let’s start addressing why this view is so lacking in context, that it ends up leading many well-intentioned people astray. And unfortunately, the sad part is the ones who end up being harmed are the very kids who are presumably the ones you are trying to help.
Now, yes, there are many times where winning should be derided, and is in fact harming the development of individual players, teams, coaches, all the way up to a country’s national team.
For example, if you win, but win by playing like crap, that’s not a good sign.
Youth or pro, in both arenas, how did the team win?
That is the question that must be looked at.
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