Winning vs Development…why not both?

That winning feeling

It is one of the hottest topics within the coaching community…how much emphasis if any can/should you put on winning when developing players.

After a long day of coaching this summer I had a very interesting conversation on this topic with a group my fellow professionals, and it was clear that while everyone had their own valid opinion on the matter – one could agree on it!!

Here are some of my thoughts.

Purpose or Protection…?

As coaches we spend hours upon hours planning sessions and activities. These activities are more often then not based around a theme and a series of outcomes we aim to guide our players towards. Underpinning this the environment we create as coaches should help both the players and coaches reach those outcomes.

But is the environment correct? Is having an environment where making mistakes is ok and acceptable? Are we hiding something from our players? Are we being too over protective and wrapping them in cotton wool as they develop?

Winning isn’t everything – but wanting to is 

– Vince Lombardi Jr.

Vince Lombardi is regarded as one of American Football’s greatest ever coaches, most famous for leading the Green Bay Packers to three straight league championships, and five titles in seven years during the 1960’s. This also included winning the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967. The NFL Super Bowl Trophy is named in his honor. 

I believe the late great Mr. Lombardi is on to something and it was after coming across the above quote that got me thinking…

Why can’t we “coach” kids how to win? After all the purpose of our job as a coach is to make them better, to provide them with the tools necessary to play, enjoy and thrive…so why leave out the tool of winning?

Taking inspiration from Vince Lombardi there is no reason that whilst winning should not be of the upmost importance in your youth/junior training sessions I believe that creating activities and an environment that makes kids want to win can be a powerful learning tool.

Competition is key

Think back to when you played football in the streets with your friends, or down at the park or during break time at school…all of these games were unstructured, with limited rules and free from coaching. What was missing was no one guided us to try this, or to think about that – in those environments you held the key to solving your own problems. However there was one element that was always apparent, one thing that drove everyone to play or take part…and that was to win!

Since having that late night discussion with my fellow coaches it was clear that the majority of us did agree on one aspect of our coaching and the environment we create for our players – every activity we facilitate and every task we set the players must be driven by competition. Competition provides pressure, and it is under these pressures that players must practice, make and execute decisions.

While competition may lead to frustration and disappointment if managed skillfully can also provide the fuel to drive a player to remain focused on learning and improving. If players are training and playing in an environment were they are not being constantly tested, put under pressure and never face failure then we are leaving them short changed.


Football is full of failures, failure happens every second of the game; a bad touch, an intercepted pass, a missed opportunity to score. Remember that the in game actions we coach players to learning and perform are to aid them and the group to succeed; having the best touch, making the most passes and scoring the most goals…win? The winning of a game, activity, 1v1 or the success of an individual action is the reward of learning and developing.

Winning should not be an obsession…but the balance of learning how to win vs wanting to win should be!

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Sean

     /  September 22, 2012

    Jose – have to disagree with one part of your article. I didn’t play in the park, or at school to win. I played because I loved to play. And I would almost guarantee that 99% of kids are the same. If winning was what “drove me to play”, then when I lost, it follows I would be de-motivated and after time, possibly not play any more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: