Imagine the scenario.
The beautiful game being played on a field with no goals, the objective being to keep hold of the ball and pass it around more than the other team! Possession of the ball wins! No goals! No Assists! Imagine how full the football stadiums around the world would be with this as the objective of playing the game!
Jose Mourinho – Chelsea’s maestro Manager – was interviewed today poking fun at the media and football pundits who have labeled Chelsea as boring after their recent 0-0 draw in a top of the able clash with Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium, which pretty much confirmed Chelsea as the 2014/15 Premier League Champions.Watch the interview here.
I get it though. Jose played the game – not to lose. One point was enough to keep Arsenal at bay – they currently sit 2nd in the table so a loss would have given them hope. So Jose played a masterclass at ensuring Chelsea kept focused towards their goal of winning the Premier League title. And it worked – much to the derision of the English media and Arsene Wenger (there is no love lost between Mourinho and Wenger either!)
For me – Jose’s comments brought forward an even more important concept I have had to deal with since coaching youth soccer (U6 to U13 age groups) in Vancouver Canada over the past 12 years.
The “Canadian rules” of Youth coaching revolve around minimizing winning games on game day at the very young age groups. “It is not about winning,” we get told at our coaching meetings and we then told to focus on “coaching and training” as “games are not important”, to ensure that boys’ and girls’ feelings are not hurt if scores get run up in games and so on. And in my experience as a “good coach” in the eyes of the parents that have had me as their child’s footie coach, this is a terrible way to prepare players for when they are older.
And for as long as I stay in this system, I simply do not buy into the “cushioning” we continue put out there for the youth of today that “winning is not important” (until they hit the U13 age group when winning becomes the only point at the higher level – go figure!)
So my question is simple and highlighted by Jose Mourihnos comments:
The game of soccer invented back in the 1800s was simple.
To put the ball into the opposition team’s goal. and stop the opposition from putting the ball into your goal!
The game actually could not be any more simple! And with this simple objective – it is up to us as coaches and the system that is set up to set up to focus on the objectives of the game so we can continue to help the youth of today get better at the game!
Sure, it is really important to “teach” the boys and girls at the young ages, the skills and techniques required to play the game. But as equally important it is essential to allow them to play as a team and learn the game in real life with as many game time experiences as possible.
You do not train a sales person for hours to then not allow them to go out and sell and achieve success. Similarly with an accountant, a lawyer, doctor and so on you would not expect to invest tons of time and money learning only for you to go be bad at your trade? So why are we so resistant to teaching this concept of winning, when the lessons to be learned far outweigh the denial we are preaching to the kids on the field of play?
So why not use adult lessons we give ourselves when we are older to the youth we are coaching football to in a way that helps them succeed at the game, as an individual and as a team?
In my experience, all teams I have coached have won and lost (the majority have won way more than lost and in some cases my teams have gone unbeaten for 2 years or more!)
This is not down to the fact I am a self-centered coach who does whatever it takes to win at all costs. My methodology is simple. I focus on the key objectives of what the game is all about. To score and to defend! And I do it in a way that is pleasing to the eye to watch through controlling the ball and working space to create opportunities to score. And when defending, defend as a team and get back behind the ball. Simple principles that are easy for a young boy or girl to understand and easily implement. And every kid involved gets to be part of this success.
I do not coach my teams to cheat. I do not coach my teams to be rough. I teach players to be good sportsmen and women and to acknowledge when you play against a better team – be humble if you are on the wrong end of a bad result.
Make the coaching fun. Make it engaging, Ensure all boys and girls touch the ball as many times as possible. And do it in a positive way yet put in place boundaries that, if they cross, will produce consequences. And when it comes to games, they are the MOST important part of football. To score or to stop the other team scoring! It is about the team, and you win, lose, or draw as a team. Every game you go play should reflect these same values.
So yes, Jose. You are dead right. Let’s ensure that football continues to be about who wins by scoring the most goals. It does not have to be fancy at times. It has to be about being the best on that day and it is up to the players, young or old, to do this. And as role models as experienced coaches on the field of play it is up to us to ensure that every boy and girl involved who plays the game learn the valuable lesson of playing as a team to go out there and be as good as you can be to achieve the objective as set out back in the 1800’s!
Those that play the game regularly at whatever level know full well there is no such thing as a friendly game! Football and soccer is about 2 goals and a ball and it is your only objective when stepping onto the field of play to get that ball in the opponents net more than he does yours!!!
Good one Jose!!!!!