How do we link long-term player development with winning?
The goal of football (or any type of game) is to win via a process of outfoxing the opponent. But when dealing with young players, how do we balance winning with development?
Coaching for long-term development of individual players can be challenging, and more so on a match day where there is a score line to identify the winning and losing team.
As coaches, we understand that winning games does not necessarily equal development, and that losing games does not necessarily equal a lack of development.
We might have heard of the term “comfort zone” and the idea that people learn best when they are just outside of their comfort zone. This might be when the challenge is hard, but achievable.
So, if individual players find the challenge on match day to be too difficult or too easy, they might not be in the best place to learn and develop.
This is evident when we see score lines of 10-0. Likewise we might see a score line of 3-2, but this does not mean that every individual player was finding the challenge “hard but achievable” where they were just outside of their comfort zone. For example, we all have that dominant player(s) in our team who is very effective, versus that player who is less effective and therefore striving to keep up with others of the same age.
However, amongst all of this challenge setting, has the art of winning been lost?
The player mentioned above was persistent with his challenge, but his actions might not have been in consideration of the most effective decision, tactics or strategy to win the game. For example, what if there is a chance to play in early behind the opposition to create a goal scoring opportunity? This would be a decision that might be very effective in “outfoxing the opponent” and ultimately a decision that will help the team to win.
So how do we as coaches consider the notion of “winning” whilst also helping players to be appropriately challenged?