Another Perspective at “Winning Versus Development”

I was recently reminded on this topic from a soccer parent, who always has some amazing feedback and words of wisdom in soccer.  It reminded me to finish a post that I had started a while ago.

Winning versus development?  There have been a lot of analyses of this topic, though without looking at underlying causes, and usually stopping short of possible solutions.

A)  Three important points for development:

  1. Development – Coaches Role: It will be equally important that when we look at winning versus development, we first define those terms.  I believe when all of us refer to development in soccer, we mean a possession football.  Possession football is something that is a premium in modern football, and in order for a team to play possession football, they must first show correct concepts, followed by correct technique, to eventually lead to tactical (decisions) awareness.  Without minimizing the fact that sometimes, its just fine and very correct to play a direct play, in general with possession football, I don’t mean to statistically possess the ball more, but to play true possession football (knowing safe play principles, building from the back, switching point, moving ball away from pressure and so on)

A possession game has all elements of development: rhythm, entertainment, concepts and building principles.  Like an orchestra everyone plays a part and the result is a beautiful piece.

A “ping pong” style game shows all elements of (false) winning: playing the fastest player on top all game long at U8, because they outrun and score goals, over playing flank (at older ages) and so on.  Like every victory that comes with very little effort, this does not last.

  1. Patience – Coaches, Parents, Players Role: Patience and time to develop a team, is something that all of us as coaches, parents and players need to train ourselves every day.  Being strategic and playing a fast player on top is fine and even smart, playing a fast player at U10 on top, for the entire game, is a clear sign of wanting to win at any cost and not allowing much team growth.  Unfortunately, like everything else, what is popular is not always correct.  As a side note, patience is something that is always challenging and the only way to succeed is to cultivate it daily.

3.  Development – Player Role: this is crucial and very important to include here. Development does happen when playing games, in practice and such.  However, practice and games are channels to help development not top development.  Top development happens in the dark, when no one is watching.  It happens in the park, basement and more.  It happens every day as a habit, which leads to excellence.  It is very important that we are also aware of the player’s role into development as well as coaches’ role into player growth. 

B)  Knowledge Versus Not? After establishing points 1 through 3 above, the real questions are:

1.  Team Trainer: If a team trainer knows the difference between a possession game and a ping pong game style, how to teach a possession game, and if they have (want) the the patience to wait ( or if a team trainer chooses a ping pong game by choice, based on outside pressure, personality to statistically win a game with all cost, simply due to difficulties teaching a possessing game, other)

2.  Patience: if coaches, parents, players will (want) to take the time for long term growth

3.  Player: if a player is matching aspirations/goals with time and effort one puts into training. 

C)   As a Review: Winning versus development is not the real problem: The real problem is the underlying cause, which in this case is: a) Possession football – coaches’ role, b) Patience and time for long term growth, c) Player role.

As a side note: Development leads to winning: I firmly believe that if one works hard and does a relatively good work toward developing a team, winning will follow, as a byproduct of training and developing. Sometimes this comes quicker and other times later, based on the many other factors that influence this equation and sometimes the other side has worked a little harder, so this cannot be every time.

Most players work very hard, and do great with some guidance, as parents we simply want the best for our kids, as coaches we all have a love and passion for the game.  So the issue of winning versus development needs to address underlying causes, be approached with less criticism, and more with a focus to offer long term solutions.

Ilir Lushaj

Madison Futsal Academy Director

Madison WI

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