Which way? Learning Vs Winning At All Costs in Youth Development

Following the commencement of the 2017 Federation of Kenya Football’s (FKF) Under 13s and 15s Soccer Leagues respectively, many youth soccer coaches and instructors face the daunting task of prioritizing either winning at all costs or the development of individual player abilities and their subsequent retention. There many scenarios in which the focus of instruction is on the task that lies ahead, according to them, leading on scores and topping league standings.

Resultantly, many would go to extents of fielding players with more qualified anthropometrics (height and weight) or even sprint-ability and over aged ones just to make sure they win. Now that is winning at all costs, which is detrimental to player development. This has led to dropout of many youngsters with potential who feel cheated by utilizing their over aged and big peers. How about if youth soccer educators prioritized the fun, enjoyment and free expression of young soccer players while finding solutions to on – field soccer problems? That could lead to more creativity, learning and superior quality soccer performers at the adult level.

Tone down pressure

Junior league games ought to be utilized for developing the individual abilities or core assets (technical skills, tactical game comprehension, physiological, psychosocial and mental aspects) of young soccer players. Over emphasis placed on better results over opponents are leading many youth soccer instructors, parents and fans into focusing on winning at the expense of player development. Since games like the ongoing FKF under 13s and 15s (Kasarani Sub Branch – Githurai Kimbo ) leagues respectively are characterized by a lot of pressure and competition, the resultant tension and anxiety interferes with the fun, enjoyment and entertainment part of the young player. Subsequently, that hinders their learning and development as youngsters will avoid making mistakes instead of accomplishing challenging tasks.

Limited ability does not highly account for high dropout rates in youth soccer. On the contrary, young soccer players point out a lack of freedom to be creative and have fun while playing as major influencers for them leaving the training turf. They need to engage in soccer from a fun point of view in a mistake free not avoidance learning environment. That inspires many to try out new stuff or moves without fear of the consequences of failure that in turn leads to the acquisition of new skills and ideas. Contrastingly, learning environments in which young soccer players feel pressurized do not offer opportunities that are core to their development and learning. Consequently, this leads to burnouts and high dropouts at early stages.

Focus on development

Actually, retention and improvements in the individual abilities or core player assets are of more significance in player development than winning at all costs. Instructors and educators should gauge the success of their respective developmental programs by having a majority of not only the most talented but also children and youths return for another season in education at their centers. This not only shows that youngsters are enjoying what they do but also value the kind of soccer education they receive. Additionally, children and youths should perceive respective developmental centers as improving on their individual soccer abilities for example technical skills, tactical game intelligence, psychosocial aspects and mentality. It is only when that happens, that we shall have many youths completing their soccer education at respective centers.

Conclusively, games like the FKF Juniors League should help young soccer players express themselves more freely thus in away enabling them to creatively find solutions to on – field soccer problems. Instructors should avoid putting youngsters under a lot of pressure during games, as is the case with mini- adults with egos fixated on competing and winning. Rather, the games should focus on the fun, enjoyment, creativity and learning part for youngsters for them to play longer until the ages of competition while still receiving further education at their one time selected developmental centers.

Article Submitted by “The Soccer Club of East Africa Development”