Westfield Soccer Association

Winning vs development or Winning and development

Weekly email 11/05/15


We have made you all well aware that the focus of our programs is on the development of our players. The focus on the process, the development of our players, is emphasized. Sadly enough not all teams and clubs adhere to the same philosophy. I’m sure you have all coached against teams and coaches were the outcome is a lot more important than the development of their players. Decisions are made which might provide these teams which results in the short term, but they definitely don’t help the players in the long term. Bad habits could be enforced to ensure short term success (win as many games as possible in flight 5, 6 or 7).

But does a focus on the process, the development of players, mean you have to either focus on the development of players or on winning games? Does 1 exclude the other? One doesn't necessarily need to exclude the other. Teams can still compete and hopefully win some games over the course of a season, while we focus on the development of our players. It is important that our players learn to compete. As long as the outcome of games doesn’t become the end goal for a coach/team when we working with a youth team. Winning definitely has a place and can be a positive by product of proper player development. If your players get better, the team hopefully improves and eventually the team might win more games. This could mean that at some point your team might need to be pushed up a flight to play against stronger competition. Winning the games should not be the ultimate end goal, but can proof that your team is on the right track.     

I found a very interesting article on this subject that I believe is worth sharing with all of you. The focus of the article in on creating the right environment in which players learn to compete. Work hard each and every practice to become a better player. We want to develop athletes who strive to become better. Which means players are eager to train with their trainers, but even more so on their own with their friends and/or with family members. This is also not only a valuable lesson that can help players be successful as an athlete, but also in many other parts of life.

Besides this message, 2 other messages in this article stood out to me. Below I pasted a quote from a youth coach at Barcelona:

Let us say that you and I coach two teams with kids that are 10, 11, and 12 years old and all are about equally good. You try to teach them to play good football, a passing game and with tactical basics while I tell mine to only play long balls and try to shoot. I can assure you that at first, I will always win against you, by using your mistakes. Break a bad pass and goal. If we however continue with the same training methods during a three year period, you will most likely win every game against us. Your players will have learned how to play while mine haven't. That's how easy it is.

We all face these challenges especially at the younger ages when we play against teams where the coaches proofs that the emphasis is on the outcome of the game.

I also found the message below among the comments made on the actual article. When we talk about proper player development almost everyone agrees that the focus should be on the process, not the outcome. Many coaches struggle to actual translate these words in to action once they are on the sideline during a game. How do you recognize a coach who focuses more on the outcome than the actual process to develop good soccer players?

So let's all answer the question. When, if ever, does winning become a bigger priority than development for you as a coach? Here are some signs:

  • You have players who sometimes don't play at all in certain games (or they play very little)
  • You have the same starters and bench warmers most or all of the time
  • Players are pegged into what you think is their best position and you hardly ever rotate them into other positions
  • You cut players simply to replace them with better players

At whatever age you do this, that's the answer to WHEN winning has become a bigger priority than development for you as a coach. I'm not saying winning and development are necessarily mutually exclusive - although the coach can certainly make them mutually exclusive.

I would encourage you all to read through the article attached to this email. The content of the message is in line with many of the emails I’ve shared with you. This is a very important topic and one we need to embrace as an association.  


Thank you,



Ruben Vloedgraven

Director of Coaching - Westfield Soccer Association