Why Coaches Should Concentrate on Development Over Results

female football coach
Coaching kids is both rewarding and challenging. We all know, as coaches, that the result is by far NOT the most important thing. But here's the case for a development first, results later approach


We all grew up watching football, cheering on our favourite teams and players, and wanting them to win. That is only natural. The ultimate goal of sports is to win. There is obviously an enjoyment to be had from playing the game. But, in the end, we want our team to win.

But there are specific considerations to take on board when it comes to coaching children and youth teams. We still want our children to win and do well – but that should not be the only thing. Developing young football players and helping them grow should also be part of the process – if not the most important part.

This idea can sometimes be difficult to explain or to sell to parents and carers who naturally want their children to be happy and to succeed. The desire to win is natural. Whether you’re on soccer betting websites having a fun bet on the weekend’s televised fixtures or you’re standing in the stadium on a cold winter night – as humans, we’ve got a innate desire for our teams to win. Why shouldn’t we want that for your children too?

We are going to look at why there is more to coaching than just winning – and that, maybe, coaches don’t have to make a choice of one or the other when it comes to development or winning.

Pressure to Win

Anyone who has spent any time at all coaching youth football will recognise the signs. Enthusiastic parents – some who may have a lot of experience of the game themselves – will be cheering on their kids on a Saturday morning. But at some point that support can go too far.

Even at a very young age, children are conditioned to be upset if they lose and happy when they win. It won’t matter to the very young if they lose but are told that they are “developing” well. They will still just feel the loss. That is why the older participants – coaches and parents – must be able to explain the process.


What is “Winning”?

under 8s to under 9s

This may seem like a very simple question. At its most basic, the winning team will be the one that scores the most goals. But part of the coaching plan should be explaining to players – and parents and carers – that winning also means becoming more understanding of the fact that it is impossible to win every game.

As much as some adults may not realise, the fact is that most kids will not end up being professional players. So it is more important to teach life skills alongside the tactics and formations. Developing a rounded adult is just as much a part of soccer coaching as teaching someone how to score goals.

A Love of the Game

Every football player and fan will tell you that they love the game. From when they were a kid watching their heroes on the TV, they fell in love with the sport. That is why they play it and why they continue to watch. But focusing on just winning at an early age could take away that love – possibly for good.


Everyone likes to win a game but there will always be one team that loses. Take that over a season and most teams will lose at some point. Being able to take that loss and come back is just as important. If losing means you lose your love of the game, you may never come back to soccer in any shape or form.


Consequences of Winning First

The problem with coaching with the attitude of winning at all cost, is what happens if the team doesn’t win. Even if you are coaching one of the best teams in your area, it is very likely that you will one day come up against a better team. Or, even more possibly, a supposedly weaker team that beats you.

The problem with coaching to win exclusively is that players will experience higher anxiety around games, lower self-esteem because of that, and less motivation to enjoy the game. By coaching development too, those factors can be mitigated and could well produce results at the same time.

Academy Dilemmas

These days there are far more opportunities for talented players to progress at a far younger age. Professional clubs want to be able to have access to the best players in their immediate area – and further – and have set up academies to train and develop promising youngsters.

That all sounds good. But what happens to the children who are not deemed good enough to remain at an academy? A loss of love for the game could be only one of the results. Youth academies will want to win games but – even at that level of play – there needs to be an understanding of the importance of development.

Rounded Game Skills

One area of developmental youth coaching that is sometimes criticised by parents and carers is the idea of giving children experience of playing in all positions. It is natural that most kids want to score goals – but that doesn’t work in a game experience and it doesn’t help development.


An all-round football program is a better approach to take. A particular child may not be the best goalkeeper in the world – or even your team – but giving them the experience will help them become more of a team player and better understand the game in general. You may even be surprised by the results.


One or the Other?

The point we are really trying to make here is that development is key – but winning is not bad. It is winning at all costs that we should be looking to avoid. By challenging our young players to overcome problems and solve them on the field, we are helping them develop as footballers and young adults.

There are many life skills that can be learned from playing soccer. The role of a good soccer coach is to help his players realize that and to meet their own challenges head on. Developing this kind of mindset will then hopefully bring results. Coaching soccer should be a process, not an instant fix to win games. Development can lead to results – but results do not necessarily lead to development.


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