Monday, July 23, 2007

How Important is Winning?

Dear Lauren,

Here's the problem. My players are pretty good, I think. They are just U13 and I feel they are pretty advanced, most of them anyway. Our season doesn't start until late-August but we have already had 10 optional training sessions, and the turnout has been very good.

We work on touch a lot. We build in some speed and agility training, and we try to make it as fun as possible. The girls love to play and they will play any time they get a chance. Their parents love for them to play as well. What parent wouldn't like to watch an activity in which their children excel?

But here's the thing -- we are in a killer division. With the exception of two 2-0 wins and a 2-0 loss, all of our spring matches were one goal games or ties. At U13 here, teams are promoted and relegated at the end of the fall season and then again at the end of the spring season. Next fall, a Premier Division will be formed from the 10 best teams in the state. My team, which is kind of the flagship team from our small club, has a chance to be a Premier team.

Do do that, we need to not finish in the top seven in the fall to avoid relegation, then finish in the top five in our division in the spring.

Reaching Premier at U14 was one of the stated goals of this team when I took over the team before the spring season. If I am to win, it will have to be at the expense of the best player development situation for some of the girls on my team. There are some that just can't be in a close game if the team is expected to win.

If the team does not reach Premier, it will almost certainly break up and disperse throughout other teams.

What would you do?

When I think of an answer, I'll write.

You know who.


Soccer Dad said...

The purist in me says 'never coach to win - there's still too much development to focus on' and 'if the team breaks up as the girls go to top flight clubs/coaches elsewhere - won't that necessarily be what's best for them?' But as usual, what sounds good in theory is rarely good in practice/reality.

If the team breaks up - only some of the girls will move to premier level teams in other clubs. Will there still be a team for the rest if it does? These things often come down to 'big picture' and what's best for ALL the girls in the long run.

The trick is this. Game situations are powerful learning experiences. But if a few games find certain players playing less than usual 'for the win', overall they are still getting development in practice and in the minutes they do play. Will that be enough?

I think in the end it becomes about striking the proper balance between development and winning enough matches to get promoted.

And if you end up missing out and the girls disband to move on to bigger and better things? Maybe it's time to fall back down to U11 and start again. That means there may be some 13 year olds who don't get offers at bigger clubs who still want to play - but there's not enough for a team. But some things would be out of your control (what the players/parents decide to do at U14)

Tough situation - I'll be curious to see how it pans out.

Old Soccer Guy said...

The people-pleasing compromiser in me struggles with the realities of select soccer. And as someone devoted to player development, I stuggle with finding the best experience for everyone. I agree that every experience is a learning experience. The most important part for me is to make sure that I take the time to point out the positives to each player.