Player Development over Winning Games


Win at all costs.


You may hear this phrase from time to time particularly in sports. But more often than not you will see it in how a team is coached. While winning is important, it’s 100% NOT the correct way to develop players to their true potential. Most coaches (especially less experienced ones) want their team to win. Of course, who doesn’t like winning? That’s understandable. But young players need time and the right environment to develop and learn skills.


As a soccer coach, you want to motivate your players to play hard but putting too much pressure on their capabilities, expecting them to always be perfect and being too negative will affect their learning and level of play.


Imagine they are just starting out and you want them to play above-average level. Instead of the player getting inspired, he may end up being discouraged and losing confidence in his/her abilities. Making the young players play just to please their coach will not help them improve.


What exactly is winning?


To some, it’s about getting a higher score than the opposing team or going undefeated. Other coaches believe that winning is seeing your players improve, play with confidence, and fix their mistakes. Everything is a learning process.


Shouting at your players for their bad decisions and poor performance will not boost their confidence. Instead, it can break their desire, leading them to lose interest in the sport and quit.


You don’t have to expect the players to win immediately in just a few training sessions. Since players have diverse abilities, achieving the goal is not always at reach.


Some coaches are controlled by their ego. They want to win every game because winning games makes them a great coach. That is true but it is extremely essential to assess your players’ skills and talents before expecting too much from them.


Kids learn best when they are happy. What does this mean? When kids see that they are in a safe and friendly environment, their eagerness to learn the game increases. Ensuring that the kids are having fun while playing fosters growth.



Player Development


  1. Physical

– Growth

– Strength

– Agility

– Conditioning

– Motor and Skill Development


  1. Social

– Friendship

– Respect

– Confidence

– Emotion


  1. Mental

– Positive Thinking

– Patience

– Preparation

– Acceptance


  1. Technical

– Dribbling

– Passing

– Defending

– Shooting


  1. Tactical

– Formations

– Positional understanding

– Principles of Attack

– Principles of Defense


The above list is a player development model. It is important for the kid to express himself rather than putting them in a specific position. Let them play and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Not because a player is poor at dribbling, you will always yell at them to pass the ball. You are not developing the player or allowing them to get better by doing this.


You will not see them beat the defenders if you restrict them to do so. At the early stage, let the kid dribble and learn. Let them get themselves into sticky situations. Once there they will learn “on the fly” that was a mistake. No need for you to point it out by screaming from the sideline. Eventually when they have put themselves in that situations enough times, they will learn to identify it sooner and learn to avoid it.


Young players should learn to play ALL over the field and not be stuck at one position just because they show skill there over their peers. To truly understand and respect the game they need to understand what it is to defend, what it means to move the ball up the field and what it means to score a goal. Therefore players need time at different positions both on offence and defense. Heck a little time in goal would be good for them too 😉


Development leads to Results


Treat the players equally. Let’s say the team has got to the Final of a Big Tournament. As a coach, your goal is to win and by winning, you want to play your best players and sit out those that can be a liability.


However, if you focus on developing your players, you want to give them chances to play and experience the game no matter what the result will be. It is hard to decide as a coach but if player development is your concern, you have to trust your players to come out with their true potential.


Focusing on the player’s development can lead to long-term results. Winning has its place and it will eventually come. Coaches and parents should promote constructive coaching. Once the players develop discipline, skills, and teamwork, the team will be capable of winning games.


Results do not always lead to development. There are times that when a team scores a goal, the opposing players blame their teammates, become angry, and don’t trust their teammates. That’s one of the consequences of focusing on winning alone.


While winning is the ultimate long term goal, developing young players physically, mentally, socially, technically, and tactically is a more important step. As the kids age, the value that they learned will help them win games when it actually matters and succeed in their career.