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Game Coach: Development vs. Winning and Finding a Balance

By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
I see many well meaning and positive parent coaches. These people care, are honest, have good intentions and do all within their knowledge and power to ensure all kids have a good time. They give up their time willingly when many would not.
Despite all of the above, I frequently sit on sidelines with such people and find we are completely opposed in what we teach, how we teach and when we teach it. At the core of this opposition is the "winning vs. development debate."
Game coaching can be difficult for all, the basic urge to "help" your players in need, frequently leading to an array of orders and demands yelled at the highest possible volume that in truth make no sense when given or received.
In order to highlight the above differences one needs to look at comments or observations from a Under-10 game from both perspectives.
The developmental coach, pre-U17, who coaches to win but understands that development is the priority is primarily concerned at game time with;
1. Each player being a master of the ball...Being willing to express themselves and play without fear (not just kick it)!
2. Can we build out of the back and ensure all touch the ball?
3. Are we trying to play a possession based game?
4. Each players technical ability. Is the ankle locked when they play a push pass? Will they try a move? Does their first touch take the ball into space?
5. Do we try to get big as a team? Can we all attack? Do we offer width, support, penetration and mobility? And how creative are my players prepared to be?
6. Can we pass backwards to keep it?
7. Will we use our keepers feet to switch the point of attack?
8. Can I get the players to think by asking low and high order questions?
9. What is the next question I should ask?
10. At the final whistle, they consider what techniques and tactics their team performed well today.
On the other hand. the parent coach trapped in "winning must come first" mentality can often be heard and seen stressing the orders below,
1. Defenders never go forward, after all they are defenders.
2. If in doubt kick it out.
3. Never pass backwards.
4. Never pass across the box.
5. When in possession only the attackers get attacking shape.
6. Never try a move in your own half.
7. The further you launch it the happier I am.
8. Don't think. just do it.
9. At the final whistle, they talk only about the result.
Any parent wishing to understand the dynamic of the team their child plays on, need only record the game coaching comments. Upon review you will quickly understand if your child is in a good development situation.



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