This episode is about winning more youth soccer games. Everybody wants to win, right? So how specifically do Clubs, coaches, and teams ensure the wins? Continue on with me as we explore several ways in which you can win more games. These are tips and techniques that I have personally witnessed and are widely in use, but rarely talked about for the gotta-win club, gotta-win coach, and gotta-win youth soccer parent. Go Team!
What is Winning?
Winning youth sports games and in life is top of a lot of American agendas. And why wouldn't it be? If we have to spend all of the crazy money we spend to get on a youth sports team, to pay for our coach, on all the gear - and let's not forget about all the time we've invested in driving to practices and games, team parties, and sometimes messing up the car with other people's sweaty, dirty kids when it's our turn to car pool. The investment we make better pay off. Do you agree? We better see some wins on the scoreboard or we as well have saved our money and played in some Rec program or not played at all.
In this episode, I'm going to share a number of ways that you can win - starting next season or even next game. If winning is your thing, then this episode is for you. These are practical tips. This is not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Let's jump into the stuff we need to know and do right now.
First Things First
The first thing we need to do to win more games is to set our sights firmly on winning. Having a bigger number on the scoreboard than our opponent needs to be front and center. There are multiple ways to accomplish that larger number, so we have to forget about this Kumbaya campfire marshmallow development nonsense. It's a numbers game. We have only so many kids in our community. We need to find the best ones, get them on the field, teach them how to win, and take our show on the road to bring some butt kicking to anyone who tries to stand in our way.
Go the extra mile. Games are good to win. In fact, we MUST win, but winning games is not enough. We have to remember the big picture. It's about winning consistently. We need to string wins together to make our winning track record. We need to climb over the corpses of any other team in our way as we climb the standings ladder. At the end of the season, our names will be on the trophy.
If Johnny, Sam, or Jane can't cut it, bench them. Let's face it, I don't drive the kind of car that I drive to the parking lot every Saturday so we can go home a loser. We come from a winning family. We drive a winner's car. We pay winner's prices to play. We play on winner's fields. Have you see our uniforms? Those are winner's uniforms, baby. Race car stripes down the sleeve because we're fast like race cars.
If you don't know me and have never heard this show before, then hopefully, you're shaking your head, getting ready to turn off this bonehead, and go listen to something else. But you know this story is real. It's happening every day across America in youth sports. And if I want to attract parents to pay obscene amounts of money, I'm going to dangle the golden carrot in front of you. I'm going to convince you that your kid is a winner when he or she is on one of my teams. We're awesome together - especially when you pay a few thousand dollars to buy awesome stickers for the back of your car.
Yeah, I may be acting out the worst among us, but there is truth between my sarcasm. The truth is: if we want to win games, we need to put winning over development. As a coach, there are plenty of games I could have won. I know how to win games. It's not hard. I don't even have to have good players. I just have to play against teams that have players who are worse than mine. It's all relative, right?
Let's talk about a few other ways that I can win youth soccer games. I hope you can appreciate sarcasm.
Gotta Look Good!
There is more to being a winner than actually winning, right? We need to make sure everyone thinks we're winners. Perception is reality. So be sure to find the best looking uniforms, the fanciest fields to play on, and be sure to pay for a title like "Select" or "Travel." These are the bare minimums we need in order to be winners. It helps a lot if we drive a nice car to the parking lot and have the most expensive lawn chairs for the sidelines. Best upgrade of all would be to bring a couple of tiny dogs to every game. Tiny dogs would make Thurston Howell III proud.
Keep Age Relatively Lopsided
In tryouts, as a Club or a coach, I can pick kids who are relatively older than everyone else on the field. If I have a field of 12-year-olds to chose from, I can pick the biggest and fastest kids I see. It's not always the case but the biggest and fastest kids are statistically more likely to be born in the beginning of the year than the end of the year. So, I can set my policy to accept kids who are primarily born between January and April. Anyone born after April has a much lower chance of playing for my winning team. Now don't worry, because I'll still take your money. I'll just make sure your kid is not messing with the superiority of my best teams. We do need to win, after all, and later born kids just aren't developed enough yet.
Bench The Runts and Reluctants
To win, we need to set aside the concept of giving each player what they need to grow individually and we need to focus more on what parents are expecting and demanding from the sideline. If you're faced with a situation where a player is feeling down on game day, lacks confidence, or didn't do what you want them to do in a game, they need to come off the field. Only play your most confident kids, the kids who will do what they're told, or can in some other way contribute to the outcome of the game. It's madness to play a kid just to boost their confidence, to teach them how to overcome their insecurities or mental blocks. Kids should go to therapy and figure out their mental issues before coming onto the youth soccer field. Winning teams only have room for the best. Forget the rest.
Lock Kids Into Positions
We need to do this as early as possible. There is no point in letting kids experience every position on the field. They're going to be bad at some of them. Put kids in places where they play the best so we can win. Get them into positions early. If we wait too long, they're going to be sloppy and uncoordinated and lose too many U10 games. People need to realize that winning a U10 game is important. We judge our kids after each match in the car. For the money we're paying, we need some wins in order to make that car-ride home a positive experience. Only winners drive cars like the ones I drive. It totally ruins the leather to have loser kids and loser parents sitting on it.
Choose Our Opponents
Winning just means having a higher number on the scoreboard. If we lose a lot of games, then we need to adjust the teams we play against. If one tournament is too hard, we switch to an easier one next time. If a set of teams in one league are beating us, then we need to adjust the league we play in. Most parents don't know the difference between one league or the other, so it doesn't really matter where we play or if we're improving - so long as we're winning.
Yell at the Referees and/or Fire the Coach
If our player is not winning a game, it's pretty much always because the referee is terrible or the coach can't coach. The good news is, if we yell loudly enough, wave our arms around and boom with authority, the referee will feel bad and either change the call they just made, or adjust the calls they make in the future. Referees wouldn't dare make another call against our team if we make ourselves scary enough. This technique works especially well if the referee's are like 15-years-old. Those kids scare easily and we parents and coaches can overpower their mental game.
Here's another great referee trick: when the ball goes out in favor of the other team, raise our own arms up in unison indicating that the ball went out in our favor! Sometimes, that will catch newer referees or ones who may not have been paying attention. If all else fails, make up some stuff and yell it loudly enough to convince the sidelines that you know what you're talking about.
If we lose consistently, we have to look closer for someone to blame. The coach is in the crosshairs for this one. It doesn't matter what kind of development experience he or she is giving to the kids, if the team isn't winning youth games, then we need a coach who will do all the stuff I mention above and get us some wins!
Youth Matches Are All About the Trophy
At the end of the day, we want to see our son or daughter basking in the glory of a season 1st place trophy. That $9 plastic trophy is worth everything!! Benching kids. Yelling at referees. Firing coaches. Gaming the system 5 different ways.
As long as we get the win. Everyone knows that youth trophies last forever!
The lessons our kids will take from our win-at-all-cost approach to youth sports will surely make the world a better place!
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