Development vs. Winning. Process vs. Outcome. Improvement vs. Results.
Regardless of how the discussion is framed, it is clear that an over-emphasis on winning and competition, instead of development and training, has been detrimental on the long-term development of young athletes.
Environments which promote winning as the primary measurement of success do not serve the best interests of players, teams or our club. When the focus is on "did you win?", instead of "did you have fun?" or "did you improve and learn something?", we see increased drop-out rates, player burnout and missed talent identification opportunities.
Placing development as the priority is easier said than done, however; youth soccer does not operate in a vacuum. Clubs, and their coaches, often feel pressure to win matches as a means to retain and recruit players.
Our focus is to support player development best practices - we look to coach our athletes based on their age and stage of ability, and use a curriculum to support their long-term needs. Scottish United Soccer Club wants to provide a progressive environment designed to help players maximize their potential.
A development-first environment does NOT mean we discourage competition. When young players are on the pitch, they want to win. That is the meaning of the game, and we shouldn't take away from that passion. However, as coaches and administrators, youth soccer needs to be centred on improving, not winning.
Improvement flows from a love of the game, trust in the coaching process and a vision which extends well beyond the results of a match, a tournament or even a season. To win at younger ages generally requires a lot of coaching intervention: positional specialization, restrictive tactics, unequal playing time and exploiting developmental differences (e.g. size and strength advantages which come from the early maturation of some athletes). It also relies on talent selection, rather than talent identification.
Talent selection is the culling of players with the current ability to participate and be successful now, or in the very near future. Talent identification, however, is the prediction of future performance based upon an evaluation of current and projected physical, technical, tactical and psychological qualities. Talent selection is comparatively simple; talent identification requires experience, intuition and a focus on the longer-term. One yields great results today; the other seeks to build elite athletes and winning teams for the future.
The rationale makes sense: with sound technical, tactical, physical and psychological skills encouraged through a process-oriented philosophy, players will develop the necessary tools to maximize their potential. A holistic plan based on the level and needs of our players significantly increases the rate of retention, improvement and enjoyment.
When Scottish United Soccer Club realizes its ambitions - to become a leading provider of elite player development experiences - we will ensure our players and teams are capable of competing at the highest level, and they will be prepared to win when it truly matters.