- Jay Miller, U17 Men’s National Team Coach 2011
In 2012, US Youth Soccer and Sam Snow prepared a game changing document titled “Youth Soccer in America: How do we Measure Success?” A ground breaking instrument that should be read by coaches and directors of all sports, the information shared within this paper teaches coaches, parents, and athletes how to measure success in athletics in a developmentally appropriate manner. I have picked out what I believe to be the most important aspects to share with the Educated Coaches blog followers.
Truths about Children and Sports
- Fun is pivotal – if it’s not “fun” young people won’t play a sport.
- Skill development is a crucial aspect of fun – it is more important than winning even among the best athletes.
- The most rewarding challenges of sports are those that lead to self-knowledge.
- Intrinsic rewards (self-knowledge that grows out of self-competition) are more important in creating lifetime athletes than are extrinsic rewards (victory or attention from others).
A fantastic quote written by Aubrey Fine and Michael Sachs in their paper The Total Sports Experience for Kids (1997) follows:
Success is something players take ownership of and in time it becomes personally meaningful. Success is a process, not a product. The process of doing one’s best is the key to success. The determining criterion of success is whether a player gave his or her best that day. Doing one’s best is the most important statement a player can make about the importance of an activity and the meaning it has. With years of experience comes self-knowledge and self-awareness. So players learn over time what it means to do your best, to give 100%.
In general the benefits of youth sports for children include character building, dealing with obstacles, dealing with losing, humility in winning, dealing with competition, leadership growth opportunities, cooperative skills, and social skills. We employ soccer to develop well adjusted, good citizens.
- FUN – Do the players smile and laugh? Do the players look forward to playing? The first questions from the player’s family should be, “Did you have fun today?”
- Fair Play – Does a player demonstrate by words or action a sense of sportsmanship?
- Laws of the Game – Do the players know and follow the rules of soccer?
- Health and Fitness – Are the players physically fit enough to meet the fitness demands of the game? Are they developing good nutrition and hydration habits befitting an athlete?
- Friendships – Are the players creating new friends within the teams and with the players from other team?
- Skills – Are the players demonstrating a growing number of ball skills and are they gradually becoming more proficient in those skills.
- Retention – Players want to continue participating season after season.
- Commitment – How do the players answer when asked at the end of the game, “Did you try your best?”
- Roles in the Team – More important than learning a position, are the players learning about positioning? Knowing where the right back or the center forward spot on the field is important, yet learning how to move tactically within the game is far more important. Do all of the players get exposed to playing all of the positions?
- Developing Well Adjusted Citizens – Lessons learned on the field translate into learning opportunities off the field.
It is certainly the stance of US Youth Soccer to focus more on match performance than outcome; yet this is not to say that players should not strive to win. There’s nothing wrong with winning! Trying to win is desirable and praiseworthy. It means trying your best. Indeed trying to play your best (match performance) often leads to winning. But not always! Remember the outcome of the game is not a reason why kids play! Players and coaches should diligently work to improve their performance. This is the drive for excellence and creates success.
Suggestions for Parents
- After a game, ask questions about fun, skill improvement, learningexperiences, and having a good time with friends.
- See yourself as part of the team and supportive of the coach; avoid setting up a conflict in your child’s mind between his or her parents and coaches.
- Develop perspective: remember what you could do at your children’s ages; don’t judge them by what you can donor. Kids will not become great players overnight.
- Develop an understanding of what your children want from sports – not all children want the same things.
I hope you enjoyed the educational piece from US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching Sam Snow and if you would like to read the entire document please go to http://www.usyouthsoccer.org and type in Youth Soccer in America: How do we Measure Success in the search engine.
Creating a Positive Sports Environment One Day at a Time,