Losing the WILL to WIN…

I commented on a post in a soccer forum last night and I thought I would also share the post here. The question was centered on the topic of…”Is it okay to push kids to WANT to WIN?” This is a very sensitive subject in this country and the more people I talk to the more complex the answers get. Here is a summary of my reply….

Players should want to WIN, that is why they play. Lets not sugar coat it, winning is fun! Losing, although not fun, should be motivating, and we should try and find the motivating factors in a loss that drives our training forward, motivating them, striving to win.

Quote from an English Coach on the Soccer Forum:

“As a coach I view everything as a step towards a realistic goal and then provide the emotional scaffolding to support the player as they climb…”

In the US, we are slowly becoming a country that is telling kids that it is okay to lose… but what I see everyday is that they are losing the WILL to WIN and becoming very, very soft. Sure, it is okay to lose and as one coach pointed out around 90% of teams in your league end the season as losers. But it is more fun to win! And why is it so bad to tell our kids this? I told my 9 year old daughter in her first swim meet to have a blast, enjoy every second (like it is the only meet you will every compete in)…and if you have a shot to win at the end of the race, give it everything you have, everything. Refuse to get beat! That way at the end of the day you will know that you competed to the best of your ability. She won all 4 races, and had the time of her life! And in the final race she tried harder than I have ever seen her try at anything.

In my opinion, the problem is that we don’t push the development that coaches like the one I quoted above are talking about. If we developed the kids (give them the athletic and technical skills to PLAY the game at a higher level), they would enjoy playing more. If they enjoy the game more, they play more often and their understanding (tactical knowledge) improves. They get better…

The better they get the more they feel that have vested in the process and the more we need to push the FUN of winning, the FUN of competing and Fun of the preparation (training) to be the best we can be (the journey). Instead, we don’t develop the players at young ages like we should. We just expect them to be good and to do much of it on their own. We become frustrated with their lack of enthusiasm, and they see themselves as not living up to the coaches standards (this is not FUN anymore). So parents console their kids (as parents should do) with an attitude of “It’s okay to lose…It’s only a game.”

After a few years of “It’s okay to lose, it’s only a game.” the WILL to WIN is lost and the players feel that they have little to work towards. This can and most often will carry over into other aspects of their life (school, work, family, etc.). Winning is tough, preparing to win is tougher and comming back from a lose is probably the most difficult thing they will face. But, if they do come back from a lose and compete and win…the toughness and the work hard and you can do anything mentality becomes fun again!

My point is shorter than my post…

Give them to tools…Give them the support…Encourage them to Enjoy the process and never let them lose the will to win!


  1. Great post!

    The phrase ‘failure is not an option” may be a bit extreme….but it needs to be part of the continuum.
    If we are preparing today’s youth, encouraging them as they participate/compete, and teaching them how to experience more success in their endeavors, then I ask what else is there?

    My 7 yr old son just went to a basketball camp where he had a blast all week, won competitions, set camp records, and then it happened!!!
    The MOST OUTSTANDING CAMPER AWARD was the sought after prize – and it went to a camper in the HS group. MELTDOWN CENTRAL 🙂

    He said “I tried my hardest all week and really wanted to win it.” (At least thats what I could decipher amongst the tears).

    Is it OK that he lost? Not to him…So not to me!
    I didnt tell him it was OK that he lost but rather give him a deeper perspective of how he proud I was and how much he improved throughout the week….and imagine by the time your that boy’s age (the winner) how much better you will be!

    I feel its our job as coaches, trainers, parents, and leaders of today’s youth to hear their concerns; but then provide the tools needed for them to be successful.
    Failure/losing should be understood & comprehended but not accepted.

    Interesting social phenomenon- The more a behavior is accepted, usually the more you will experience.

  2. i asked my groups today if they wanted to try the TRX 40/40 Challenge (40 suspended push ups with a knee tuck followed by 40 rows). Nobody even wanted to try (seems pretty hard). Then a little 70 lb soccer girls steps up and says, “I’ll beat that.” And she did! She absolutely had every person in the room cheering her on to beat the test that I said no one could beat! So I gave her a t-shirt and all of a sudden, every kid wanted to try.

    This was my hidden motive, to challenge and then reward and try to get more people involved. But it always amazes me that nobody ever wants to step out and be the first. We need to create an atmosphere where kids want the challenge, they want to win, they want to do what someone says they are not capable of doing. This is what we need. Tristan – I hope your son wins the camper of the year award next year at 8!

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