JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
Winning is Great, but it’s Not the Goal!
It always seems when coaches get together, the topic of winning always comes up. Coaches always boast about their team winning 10 of 12 games or about beating some well-known team by one goal. It seems it’s always about winning. If we don’t win then the parents will take their children to another club that believes winning is the right thing to do. There’s a wide differences between loving to win and having to win, between competing to be our best and competing to be the best.
Is it almost un-American to say winning is not the goal. In fact, many would say we compete in a “win-at-all-costs” environment. How does this help or hurt our player’s performances and how does it assist with their developing into to productive citizens? Yes, we all want to win, but please understand the distinction: winning is a byproduct, not a goal.
Winning odds increase when you place your focus on how you get there rather than on winning as the goal– the learning and development, the continual movement toward mastery. During competition this means having a moment-to-moment, concentrated focus on executing skills and maintaining a positive attitude.
John Naber, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, exemplifies this vital concept. He shares, “My goal was never to win a race. My goal was to be the best I could be that day.” Disturbing news stories and studies show a focus on winning can produce unsportsmanlike behavior, outright dishonesty and unethical use of dangerous drugs.
I have known many great youth teams that were undefeated during their regular season and lost their first postseason match when they played a team that on paper they should have easily have defeated. Perhaps their focus is on the outcome rather than on the moment and the process. Focusing on winning can lead the performer away from the power of the present moment and creates performance-lowering tension by putting attention on something not under a player’s direct control.
Parents have a part in this process; they can help the player stay focused. How? Be interested in what the child is learning about him or herself and what skills they are developing. Ask the child what they like about playing soccer. You certainly don’t have direct control over how well your child will play in the game, but you do have control over how calm you are during and after your child’s games or training sessions, what you say and how encouraging you are very important in the process of winning or losing. Sometimes losing is better then winning in preparing a player for the future.
There will be times when you find yourself getting frustrated or annoyed at your player or child’s performance, ask yourself, what am I trying to control that I don’t have control over? Then zero in on what you do control. And remind yourself the focus should be on the learning and the fun!