DAN ABRAHAMS on how time-poor coaches can weave in psychology elements MORE
THIS WEEK’S DEBATE: Your players are constantly trying to better each other with harder shots, tricks and flicks, and by staying behind longer after training. Should you encourage this kind of one-upmanship and competitiveness?
“One-upmanship is something that can be seen in almost every aspect of kids growing up. It’s not anything new and it’s certainly not bad for them.”
“If you’ve got players who are willing to stay behind after training voluntarily, assemble the said players, bottle the air around them and then sell it on the internet. You’ll be a millionaire within weeks!
Seriously, you have to ask yourself what would be more irresponsible – to allow players to be competitive, or to tell them to stop playing soccer and go home? Having players who carry with them a passion for going the extra yard is so valuable, so you mustn’t lose that.
One-upmanship is actually a pretty harmless quality. It shows that players really care about what they’re doing and that they have an interest in their sport. Surely that’s no bad thing.
One-upmanship is also something that can be seen in almost every aspect of kids’ lives growing up. It’s not anything new and it’s certainly not bad for them. Whether it’s a rivalry over school work, sticker collecting or racing friends to the sweet shop, kids love the competitiveness of getting one over on their mates, so I definitely wouldn’t treat this as anything bad.
Competitiveness has become a dirty word in youth soccer these days, but overly so in my opinion. If we didn’t want our players to be competitive we wouldn’t be playing in leagues and cups – it would be friendlies all the way.
I think it’s good for players to challenge themselves, whether that’s in a proper game, by performing tricks in training, or anything else for that matter. Encourage it and you will soon see your players blossom.”
“There’s a level of respect players need to adhere to in youth soccer. There are plenty of ways to express their talent without it being at the detriment of others.”
“The risk you run if you decide to indulge their desire to outdo each other is that players are ultimately taking an eye off the ball, if you’ll excuse the pun.
I’ve seen it many times before, and the problem with players and one-upmanship is that they become so focused on outdoing a mate that it consumes them during training. So a simple pass to a team-mate will be ignored because a certain player wants to nutmeg his nemesis on the other team. Other players will ultimately lose out because some lads are too intent on settling scores.
This also creates cliques between players, and cliques in any soccer team are bad news. Resentment, jealousy and distrust can quickly follow, and some players can feel genuinely left out because they’re not involved in ‘the joke’ or ‘the challenge’.
There’s also a level of respect – for themselves and for their team mates – that players need to adhere to in youth soccer. There are plenty of ways for players to express their talent without it having to be to the detriment of others. You wouldn’t want players mocking opposition players by trying to make them look foolish, so why should they do it to their own team-mates?
And while staying behind after training is good in theory, you may begin to incur the wrath of worried parents. Remember, while the kids are on the training pitch they are your responsibility, and really you should be the last one to leave. Are you willing to wait behind?”