Win in youth soccer

As a youth soccer coach, your goals should be to make sure the players have a good experience and are learning the game of soccer. There should be a strong repetition of fundamental skills throughout the year, helping each player reach his potential for that season.

That said, I have a theory why you don’t try to win while achieving the above goals. I’m not talking about the very young flag leagues where no points are taken. We all know all the dads on the sideline and most players keep score anyway. I don’t condone keeping score, counting wins or losses, and acting like Vince Lombardi in these developmental leagues. Move players around, giving everyone a chance, and ignore any kind of record keeping.

I believe in having every team prepared, so even if you’re coaching in a developmental league, don’t shame the kids. Get them ready to go and make sure their fundamentals are solid. When you get to the score keeping level with records and playoffs, try to win by all means. Try to win, but not at any price.

Winning the championship, even at the Pop Warner level, feels great and will stay with you forever. The number of opportunities you have to play for the title will depend on many factors. The main factor is the size of the city you are training for (if it is a traveling team) and more important is how the players are divided. If it’s a draft and the teams will be split evenly, you’ll have less chance of building a powerhouse. If you’re lucky enough to live in a big city that plays in smaller cities, chances are you’ll be playing in a lot of tournaments. I coach in the second-smallest city in our conference, but I’ve made it to the title game in two of the last three seasons. For twenty years, my teams play for the title every three years. Unlike the top levels of soccer, youth soccer doesn’t see many surprises. Larger cities with a higher number of players win the most games.

It is not common for my people to win titles. The city I train for has been crowned champion just four times in the last two decades. It seems that the only city with a longer dry spell is the New Orleans Saints. They got to the Super Bowl winning just two playoff games in forty-two years. The 2010 Saints team won its first two playoff games, matching the all-time win total, and finished the job by winning the Super Bowl. You could see the confidence of the entire organization, particularly after the second-half sideline shot to open the third quarter. Talk about a bold move, showing that the Saints showed up to win the game. The Saints weren’t shy about declaring at the end of the season that their goal was to go undefeated, unlike the Indy team that openly gave up on the NFL, fans and themselves once they secured home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Enjoy the thrill if you ever get the chance to compete for a title, as it is one of the most electrifying experiences you can have in youth soccer.

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