“Its all about winning!”. “Win at all costs!”. “Train all day and night to be the best!”. These are common phrases that you’ll hear a lot in sport, especially in youth team football. They are all wrong.
Sport is in my blood and I’ve played football all my life. I’ve also coached men’s and boy’s football teams over the years.
Often, these phrases are said by fathers who want their kids to play professionally. The fathers want to achieve this goal through the eyes of their kids, as they didn’t make to that level or didn’t play themselves. These fathers are competitive people but they’re looking at the situation in completely the wrong way.
These sayings are all wrong and if coaches and parents believe them, it does not create a nice environment for children to play in. It’s not all about winning and at a young age, kids don’t need too much fitness training. If they train too much, they’ll be burnt out, just as anyone would be. They won’t enjoy playing as much either.
If you’re a parent OR a coach of a child playing any sport, there are three important objectives that you should aim to achieve. You should want your child to:
Coaches and parents should never shout from the sideline and certainly not ‘have a go’ at other children playing on the opposition team. This does happen and it’s bang out of order.
It’s often said that “winning isn’t everything” and this is absolutely true and even more so at youth team level.
Your children need to learn to win but also learn how to lose. These are life lessons as well, as they won’t always get what they want in life and they will suffer enjoyment and fulfilment in life, as well as disappointment.
Parents often confuse kids by shouting and they put kids under pressure by getting on their backs. Your child should be enjoying themselves, even if their team are losing.
If your child has won their match, encourage them to shake the opposition team’s hands and say “well played”. Even if your child loses a match, still encourage them to do exactly the same.
As a coach (and a parent), you’re also a teacher and the children you coach will naturally look up to you and follow your lead. You have an important responsibility to say the right things and act in the right manner. You should want your children to improve not just as a footballer, but also as a person. You are teaching them about discipline and combining that with making sure your child is smiling and having fun. How will they learn about discipline if their coach or their
father is shouting and swearing on the sideline?!
The best example of this is a top American football player whose son was playing for a local youth team. He would watch his son play but would stand silently on the sidelines and not cheer, shout, or give instructions. When the kid asked his dad for his feedback at the end of the game, the dad said that as long as he listened to his coach, followed his instructions, enjoyed what he was doing and was happy, that was all that mattered and he was happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is huge value in teaching our children to win and it’s always better to win than it is to lose. In fact, it’s that competitive fire and hunger to be the best that helps drives our society forward. However, if you remember the three main objectives, it will create an amazing environment for children to be in and this is the best platform to achieve good results. Just let them play though and don’t put too much pressure on them.
Make sure you encourage your child. If your child is learning, developing, playing with a smile on their face and laughing with their friends, this is the true definition of winning! 😊