Westfield Soccer Association

It is still a marathon, not a sprint

Weekly Coaches' Email 4/22/2015


In last week’s email I discussed the annual WSA travel tryouts and the importance of them when we go through the process of forming our travel teams for next year. I received some very good feedback on the email, but would like to stress that if anyone has any questions on the process I would urge you to reach out to me. I do not mind explaining it to anyone who has additional questions.

On more than one occasion I have shared with our coaches and the rest of our membership that player development is not a sprint, but a marathon. The way to the finish line is very long and definitely not straight. We will have to deal with challenges along the way, but they are worth dealing with. We can’t forget that it is a process that takes time, more than 1 year, and that we have to continue to accept that players will make mistakes along the way.

There is of course a reason why I bring this up to everyone. Everybody knows and understand that child development cannot be rushed. We do live in a society where people are used to getting everything really fast due to all the advancements we have gone through the last few decades. This, however, does not mean that youth athletes will suddenly become better athletes in a shorter amount of time. So when your team is competing against a better side or a team with very talented players it is possible for your team to lose the game.  Some players simply have more talent than others and/or are simply further in their development.

We should still allow for our players to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of player development and we do not want players to be afraid to make mistakes. So if your goalkeeper mishandled the ball or a pass back to the goalkeeper from 1 of your defenders is intercepted there is no need to let the players involved know that they made a mistake that was costly, by reprimanding them in front of everybody else. They most certainly know they made a mistake. If we support them through this process they will learn from these mistakes. I would like our players to continue to pass the ball back to the goalkeeper (or goal player) even if it went wrong before. Players who are afraid to make mistakes, because they are worried they will be reprimanded by the coach, will most likely kick the ball forwards or out of bounce next time they are in that same situation.

That will most definitely not aid the player or players involved and the team. Let’s not worry about the short term, but understand that these sacrifices will help develop soccer players who are both confident and comfortable on the ball. In a few years from now it will not matter that a team lost a game at U9 or U10 because the opponent was able to intercept a pass back to the goalkeeper.

My favorite moment from last weekend? I had the pleasure of watching 1 of our U9 teams play. The boys on the team improved tremendously since the first time I saw them play at the Bridgewater tournament back in September of last year.  They have gotten so comfortable playing with each other and played the ball back to their goalkeeper under pressure of a defender, rather than kicking the ball forwards or out of bounce. The coaches on the team strongly encouraged this and set down on the bench just watching this as it happened. These boys clearly felt the support of their coaches and will continue to develop as players and as a team.

I know that all of you are on board with the WSA philosophy, but with the game on the line we can all lose sight of things. Remember that we are all part of the association to create a good environment for our youth players to play in. It is not about us coaches. No coach or trainer will be judged on a team’s record.

Good luck this upcoming weekend.


Ruben Vloedgraven

Director of Coaching - Westfield Soccer Association