Why coaches shouldn’t focus on winning?

 Setting Players up for Success

We talk about having a high-level performance environment, but what does this really mean?  When people think high performance, the first thing that often comes to mind is overbearing coaches that are “on their players” pushing for performance, focusing on what they did wrong instead of  praising what worked.

This constant berating does not work! It does not encourage high performance, instead it does the complete opposite.

Coaches set the tone of the entire game.  The way that they plan practices, react to performance, and respond to challenges  has a direct impact on how the player performs.

At Premier Soccer, we believe that a high-performance environment is one that encourages skill mastery.  It is about creating a space that encourages a child to put in their best effort each time.

Children will be praised when they work hard, show improvement or help other team mates. It is not about making the goal-but instead, what they did to get there.

We believe that each player’s success should be based on their own efforts and achievement. Training programs are geared towards the individual ensuring that each child is provided with the environment to excel.

Winning Really isn’t Everything

Training is about much more than winning the game.  Yes, we all want our players to be successful, but when coaches focus on winning alone, they miss vital opportunities for skill training.  In fact, when we push children to win, research has proven that this hinders the child’s development of skill, creativity and tactical cleverness.

Achievement focused training changes not only the player’s performance but the coaches.  Driven to win, coaches will end up pin pointing the elite athletes on the team. They will push these children to excel, and the others, will lose the experience of refining their skills.

There are several problems with this way of coaching.  This pressure cooker environment is extremely stressful.  Children become so focused on winning and pleasing the coaches, that they become afraid to make mistakes.  They evaluate their performance based on other players, stop thinking outside of the box, and instead turn to the coach for solutions. 

Alternatively, when coaches focus on developing skills, creativity and tactical cleverness, they will develop the foundation for excellence.  They are providing both the tools and the training, that over time, will create not only better players but more of a passion for the game.

More than Physical Literacy Skills

Although we often talk about the physical attributes of soccer, coaches can’t forget both the  emotional and cognitive development that needs to occur.

Playing a game of soccer requires several skill sets including:

  • Being able to manage the emotions of winning and losing
  • Teaching players to play fairly
  • Coping with frustrations on the field
  • Teaching respect for teammates, coaches, opposing teams and referees
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • Building resiliency

Developing Resilient, Confident Children

Children attend practices to learn skills, be active, and test their boundaries.  Testing boundaries requires trust, confidence and self-esteem.  These are all factors that can only come into play if the environment expects a high level of performance.

The key is to create an environment that will encourage children to persevere, to recognize their faults and put in the effort to improve them.  Coaches should support this by commenting on what the child did well, and the areas where they need to improve.  They will encourage self-evaluation and reflection resulting in better performance.

Playing a game is so much more than getting a goal. It is about cultivating an environment that nurtures talent, desire and optimism.  An environment that infuses children with the passion and drive to excel.


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