What does winning truly mean? I have been involved in a lot of discussion around this topic of late. Several articles I have read, constantly repeat that the obsession for short term success is mainly about stroking your ego and generally destroys the long term possibilities for young players. We have all won something in our life, and we know the feeling of euphoria when you win something special as it keeps driving your fuel to win again. You want to feel it again and enjoy it with those around you. Sometimes it drives you so much, you forget about what is important for ALL the players in your team.
The winning versus development argument that seems so popular in blogs all over the world, has stemmed from the “win at all costs” mentality. At youth level, who is really pushing this ideal? It is a fact that by the age of 13, around 70% of children playing in organised sports team quit. Mainly because they are being pushed to “win” when in truth it is not why the enjoy going every week. A study from Project Play from the Aspen Institute shows some interesting results. It asks kids the question “why do you participate in sports?” Over 90 per cent of children responded that participated in sports because it was fun. What does fun mean? In the study the top 5 responses were 1. Trying your best, 2. When coaches treat players with respect, 3. Getting playing time, 4. Playing well together as a team, 5. Getting along with your team mates. When did winning come on the list? 48th out of 81 points. I took this information from the blog ‘Winning versus development’ by Paul Cammarata.
So trying your best is number 1. Being given the opportunity to achieve something by being the best you can be, by giving everything you have to give. We should be looking to install the vales of hard work, a never-quit attitude, and continual improvement in our youth. Alongside technical development, those are the things that build a winning attitude. Develop the winning mentality and we will see our players take ownership of their progression – their attitude towards striving for perfection. And this doesn’t come overnight. It takes time to understand that training one night a week is not enough. It takes time to understand that this doesn’t happen in a week, a season or maybe even a year. It takes time to understand, when you are young that you learn so much more by failing and making mistakes. Development is not a straight line and ups will come with downs. You cannot expect or even want, constant stress free progression. It is important to challenge yourself.
So does winning mean taking out the championship at U14 level? Winning for me is long term. It is the ability to make a living doing what you truly love as a career. If you get to the point where you can achieve this, then you have truly developed your hunger and passion to give 100% to the things that you love.