Soccer Coach in Circle of Kids

The Balanced Coaching Philosophy

In an earlier article, I explained three components of a youth coaching philosophy: winning, development, and fun. In that article, I described attributes of coaches that favor one component over the others. I went so far as to call them one-dimensional coaches.

This website is called Balanced Coaches for a reason. And it’s not because I promote the use of one-dimensional coaching philosophies.

So let’s expand that original article and examine two-dimensional coaches. This would be a coach who focuses their philosophy on two of the three components. While we’re at it, let’s consider how this can affect the players and their desire to continue playing the game.

Winning and Development

Coaching Philosophy Triangle - Winning and Development
A coaching philosophy primarily focused on winning and development.

This type of coach uses development as a tool to achieve their ultimate goal of winning games. They will focus on hard work and repetitions of drills.¬†You’ll hear these coaches say things like, “I don’t want us to be out-worked by other teams.”¬†Parents can expect long seasons, lots of practices, and work during the off-season.

The biggest issue with this focus is that it can burn kids out on the sport. This approach lacks the key component of having fun. At some point the sport becomes a job and the kids lose interest. Eventually, they decide not to play and the sport loses another player.

Development and Fun

Coaching Philosophy Triangle - Development and Fun
A coaching philosophy primarily focused on development and fun.

This type of coach disregards the score of the game and team’s record. Their goal is to help the players improve their skills while having fun. Sounds good, but if you ignore the importance of winning the team may end not being competitive.

This approach improves individual capabilities and keeps kids happy to be at practices. Unfortunately, it also creates a lack of team cohesion necessary to win games. The team may even find themselves being beat much of the time.

Being on a team that is not organized well and is losing game after game is disheartening. That’s true no matter how fun practices are. When the kids don’t get the validation of game-time success, they’re more likely to give it up.

Winning and Fun

Coaching Philosophy Triangle - Winning and Fun
A coaching philosophy primarily focused on winning and fun.

At first glance it’s easy to think that this combination is not really a valid approach. These two elements seem be at odds with each other. I admit that I haven’t seen many coaches take this stance but I have seen it. What does it look like?

Typically, it will involve coaches that don’t fully understand the game or struggle to bring structure to their team. They may win games but it will be through the brute force of their players. This happens frequently in lower-age youth soccer. A team with a fun but inexperienced coach still wins a lot of games because they have a couple big or fast kids. They simply force their way to a win.

It seems like a successful team. They win games. The kids are happy. What else matters? The problem is it limits the growth of the players and the team. As they age they will be outpaced by their peers and eventually players will start to drop out.

A Balanced Coaching Philosophy

Coaching Philosophy Triangle - Balanced
The three components of a coaching philosophy are balanced.

I’ve found the best approach to be one that balances all three aspects of coaching philosophy. This type of coach recognizes the importance of all three components and won’t ignore any of them. Coaches that take this stance, I call balanced coaches.

Using this approach will produce players and teams that improve, win some of the time, and enjoy what they’re doing. Notice I didn’t say they would win all the time. In fact, there may be seasons when the team has a losing record. That’s OK because they can learn to develop different strategies for the following season.

Overall, this approach leads to higher player satisfaction and longer retention in the sport. As youth coaches, that should be at the top of our priority list.

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