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.
The best professional soccer players fail to score most of the time. Elite player’s soccer players fail on their attempts to score a goal an even higher percentage of the time. It is reality -- the odds are very much against us!
Players are going to make mistakes and experience losses and failures frequently on the soccer field and in life. Given that, does it not make sense to think carefully about our choices? Mistakes and losses can lead to lowering our self-esteem and confidence, or opportunities to gain experience and learn. In most instances, when a young player makes a mistake – especially when it may affect the game or let his team down, he already feels badly about it. Who should be one of the first ones to step up? Typically it’s the coach’s role to draw out the learning at an appropriate time, when his player can be open to his words.
As a coach you should be very supportive to your player by not focusing on the mistake or loss and by refraining from any negativity. Remember that this is a learning experience for your player and yourself. When a mistake is made by a player or your team loses, your job is to listen with empathy.
It may not be fun for the players or you, but there are benefits to losing. I always try to teach and model mistakes and losses as opportunities to grow and learn. Players are more likely not to develop a higher level of responsibility if mistakes and losses bring criticism and or shame, it would not be surprising if a young player tried to avoid this negativity by shifting the blame or making excuses. This can lead to an undesirable and lasting pattern.
Important qualities of humility, compassion, resilience and persistence are developed primarily by experiencing error and adversity. If a player succeeds all of the time, there’s the potential for cockiness and inability to manage defeat. It’s times of failure that provide opportunities for young players to learn humility and develop empathy and compassion.
Resilience, the ability to bounce back after defeat, is considered by experts to be a major key to happiness. Being resilient builds the persistence required to meet challenges on the soccer field and in life. Living a life of happy success requires all of these vital character traits to be strong.
What’s the point: Teaching your kids that mistakes and losses are opportunities in disguise helps them establish a valuable lifetime skill.