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Coaches, parents and players all want to win matches. That’s only natural. But enjoyment is replaced by stress if natural competitiveness gives way to a ‘Win At All Costs’ (WAAC) attitude.
But you’re not a WAAC coach, are you?
Hmmm….let’s see shall we?
Please answer the following five questions HONESTLY. Assume your team is aged between six and eleven and you’re playing seven-a-side mini-soccer in a league that allows roll on, roll off substitutes.
1. The opposition turns up with six players. Do you:
a) Offer to start with six yourself; or
b) Put out your full team. It’s not your problem if they can’t field a full team, is it?
2. One of your players is new and not as skilful as the rest of your team. He has been on the subs bench since the start of the match. There’s ten minutes to go in an important league game and you’re leading 1-0. The only player on the pitch who hasn’t been subbed yet is your star defender. Do you:
a) Pull off your star defender and put the new player on; or
b) Leave the sub on the bench.
3. In the scenario above, you put the new player on and he makes a couple of mistakes that cost you the game. After the match you are confronted by parents who say that ‘you lost us the game’ by putting on the new player. Do you:
a) Remind the parents that your main concern is developing ALL your players, not winning matches, and players won’t improve by sitting on the bench; or
b) Apologise and mentally kick yourself for making a bad decision.
4. At half time you’re winning 7-0. Do you:
a) Rest your goalscorers in the second half (or put them in defence); or
b) Do nothing – it’s going pretty well and you want to improve your teams’ goal difference.
5. Your main striker gets a kick on her shin and wants to come off. You’re losing 2-1 with five minutes to go. Do you:
a) Take her off and hope your depleted forward line can get you a point; or
b) Ask her to stay on for the last five minutes. It’s only a little knock, she’ll be OK.
The ‘correct’ answers are pretty obvious but what would you really do?
If you answered mostly ‘A’s you’re clearly not a WAAC coach. If you answered mostly ‘B’s you need to ask yourself another question:
Is what I’m doing in the best interests of all my players or am I more concerned with accumulating points and trophies?
Putting too much emphasis on results will cause you and your players stress and makes everyone afraid to take risks. The resulting ‘safety first’ culture stifles player development and may well result in more losses in the long term.
Furthermore, if your answer to question 5 was B, the English FA (and I assume most other associations) would view this as child abuse. Remember, your first priority as a coach of children has nothing to do with the game itself. Your first priority is to protect the welfare of your players.
So please – don’t worry if you lose the odd game as a result of a risk that you or one of your players took that didn’t come off. It’s a learning opportunity, not a disaster!
Try to give all your players an approximately equal share of match time and respect the opposition.
Treat them as you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes.
That way we’ll put the enjoyment back into match days!