Winning IS Everything

Posted on Feb 3, 2013 in Coaching Youth SoccerSoccer ParentU9

Winning IS Everything

I was watching a Sunday morning show today where they interviewed Jim Kelley and a Psychiatrist on the subject of winning. Jim Kelly is the only NFL quarterback to lead his team to 4 Superbowls in a row, only to lose in each one.

The psychiatrist showed studies indicating that people who won lived longer than those who did not.

As a youth soccer coach, as a father, as a person-I agree, winning is very important. If not everything, it is incredibly important for even the youngest kids to “win”-a LOT!

When it comes to youth soccer (and youth sports in general), the problem is that the sports organizations, clubs, coaches and parents AREN’T focused on developing winners-they are focused on winning games, championships, tournaments, leagues, etc. at too young of an age.
I am not saying that we need to have a situation where everyone wins games all of the time, or that we do not keep score. In fact, young players need to learn. In order to learn, young players need to be taught, challenged, experience failure, learn to overcome AND they need to win. However, winning has to be defined appropriately for each team and even each individual player depending on each individual and team situation.

This happens at every level in sports-even at the professional level. Manchester United and Manchester City define winning as winning the championship of the EPL league. Brazil defines winning as winning the World Cup. The New England Patriots define winning as winning the Superbowl (as do many teams in the NFL). These teams and organizations are satisfied with nothing less as “winning team” goals. Many of us would agree that based on the talent and the resources they have they have set their expectations at a reasonable level.

However, within each one of these teams each player will have their own goals that help them define what a win is for them on any given day. The backup player that gets to play because the person ahead of him was injured may have the goal of successfully contributing in their role. They accomplish that and they had a successful day. The Indianapolis Colts were not expected to do much this year, but few of us would say they did not have a winning season. They laid the groundwork for next year, and their expectations will rise as they continue to improve.

If many of the best professional players and organizations can keep winning in perspective, shouldn’t the adults responsible for the development of our young children be able to do the same?

The best coaches I know define success and winning in a way that matters for their specific teams and specific players-at all levels and all ages.

You would have to agree that well over 99.99% of all athletes will not be the best in the world at their sport. 100% of athletes retire at some point, to be replaced by the next generation.

Jim Kelly’s life AFTER his professional football career is one of philanthropy, family and being a positive influence on many people’s lives. There are other great players who won championships and then fell into crime, drug abuse, alcoholism and depression. We certainly would have a hard time saying that “all is good” because they won a Superbowl.

Why do so many seem to think that coaching kids to focus only on winning soccer games, basketball games, ANY youth games at the expense of long-term skill and character development should even be a consideration by someone who is truly a winner?

Anyone who has seen me coach knows that I am very competitive. They will often see me get caught up in winning a game. However, when I am at MY best, when I am TRULY winning, I am focused on developing “people”, not just driving young athletes to win the “Saturday U9 soccer league” at the detriment of my player’s long-term development as soccer players and as people.

(I wrote about this in more detail in this blog post recently: Soccer Parents-Renewed Faith!)

Many of us would agree that based on their talent and resources the Broncos had a reasonable expectation of winning the Superbowl this year. Many would say that a few specific, major blunders in their loss to the Ravens kept them out of the AFC championship game. The player(s) that committed those blunders can fall into depression and give up, or learn from their mistakes, overcome and do better next time. If they overcome I would say they are winners-whether or not they ever get the chance to even make it to another Superbowl.

Winning IS everything. However, if you are not focused on the right goals, no matter how many games you or your teams win you are NOT winning. In fact, I would argue that you are losing in more ways than you may ever realize.