Just the other day I came across a forgotten article by Tom Garigen, Director of Coaching at the Buffalo United Soccer Club.
Since I had a discussion with our own coaches about our players' performance and how our parents (and players themselves) perceive it.
I will use a few excerpts from the article below, which I think reflect our own USCA player development model.
...instill in my coaches the idea that they need to coach the intent of our players, not the results. If a player attempts to control and play the ball appropriately, but fails to execute properly we should praise them and fix the technique.
...If a player doesn’t attempt to control the ball and randomly kicks or dribbles the ball forward for a goal, we should not praise them, but instead demand that they play with purpose.
...I was very pleased with both teams’ performances. The boys tried to control almost every ball that came to them, they demonstrated good technical ability, above average spatial awareness for 11 year olds, and tried to make soccer plays (dribble, pass, or shoot) every time the ball came to them. There were a couple of sequences where they strung together five and six passes in a row and finished with a shot. The opponent launched the ball forward at every opportunity and with the exception of one dominant player up top, did very few “soccer things”. Our boys were losing 5 to 0 at half time.
...The u10 girls’ team that I was coaching was awesome. Without fail almost every single player that got the ball, no matter where they were on the field, tried to play with purpose and make “soccer plays”. Regardless of the pressure on the ball from the opponent our players were calm, trying to control and either beat the defender by dribbling or making a purposeful pass to a team mate. The opponent hammered the ball forward at every chance and beat us nearly double digits to zero (I am not even sure of the final score).
Here is a Guide to Evaluating Game Performance at the Younger Ages.
As a parent, if you have a little trouble understanding why USCA takes this approach I suggest to watch your child’s team play and focus in on the intent of the players each time they get the ball. At the same time focus in on the opponent’s intent each time they get the ball. Block out the result or execution of their intent and the results of the game. Then watch a high level game on TV and do the same with those players.
Assuming that over time with training and practice at home your child will get better at the execution of their ideas, which model more closely resembles what the demands are going to be on your child when they are older?
We need to begin to change the soccer culture that currently exists at home for our younger players.
It is not a question if we won or lost.
Instead, the casual questions needs to be, “Did you have a game today? How did you play?” Then, require an answer that does not speak to the results of the game but rather some specific details about how the players performed.
For example, “We played well, everyone was attempting to control the ball and make plays,” or “We played well, the coach has been trying to get us to stop diving in when defending and we did that much better than the last game.”
Reflecting on our OASL season this year, as coaches we failed making that philosophy stick with our parents and players. In fact, we had one U9 player drop out half way through the season, because he did not like losing so many games.
It is clear that our intent had not sunk in for that player and as coaches we must take responsibility for that. We preach Excellence over Success. It means learning never stops.
Is it better losing a game where our internal targets that we set for each game are upheld?
Or is it better to win a game where our preset targets are ignored?