It is a dilemma among soccer associations, club philosophies, sociologists, parents, whether the competition is healthy for players’ development; when it is the right time to implement it in players’ career; and how to organize the format of competition. Taking many aspects into consideration such as knowledge, experience, perception, it is not easy to deduce what is right.
What we know for sure is that we must create an environment, training methods using teaching skills and not only training drills, to prepare players for competition from an early stage. Why? Because competition is a natural habit and it is installed in every kid. To some a bit more, to others a bit less, but nobody, for sure, doesn’t like to lose – everybody wants to win. It is our duty to help children learn to approach competition with positive excitement and passion to perform better than an opponent, and not with fear of failing. Therefore, clubs administrators, coaches and trainers and parents must support their players come what may, taking it as a learning stage and getting the best out of the experience for the future occasions.
Coaches have the main role in children’s development process as they become the player, and must help them understand their match experience in all situations. Match preparation must be defined and clearly presented to players so as to keep them motivated, and to gain confidence. Instructions during the match should be positive and encouraging as players are surely trying their best and are not happy when they make mistakes. At the same time correcting a player that is intentionally playing out of the concept is allowed, while not making that a distraction of the potential and flair of a talented player. Allow players to be creative and productive, making independent decisions always in favour of the team and not personal promotion. Keep reminding them that from a good team individuals shine out. Post-match analysis is a healthy tool that helps players understand their performance and performance of the whole team. Briefing should cover main moments of the game, both positive and the ones that need improvement.
Motivation is important factor when we do things – the same goes for soccer. Players love being with their friends, playing together for the same goal, and sharing excitement in every action. Learning from each other during the play, analysing situations how their friends dealt with problems, imitating but with their own stamp are main characteristics of children during the game. Lots of action and personal involvement in contributing to the team’s effort, scoring or saving their own goal are treasurable moments they live through in every match. We must provide them with that adventure.
There are occasions when player is not trying hard enough and is not persistent, easily giving up in many situations during the game, or showing poor sportsmanship or unethical behaviour. If we notice one of these signs we must react so as to return the player to the right track. Players’ development is a long process and we must plan long-term with our players and teams. We are preparing the team for every match at the end of the week, but our main and final aim which we are striving for is to develop in children a lifelong love for the sport, strong and fair characters and atmosphere where children want to come to the practice no matter they lost the game last Sunday.