Winning IS Everything

The following post comes from Karl Dewazien, CEO/Internet Clinician at FUN SOCCER Enterprises. Koach Karl is the author and publisher of the world-famous “FUNdamental Soccer” book series, the cornerstone of Youth Soccer practice and Small Sided games. Find out more at

By Michael Ball; Originally published at

I am amazed when a coach says, we play for fun and we are not interested in winning. This is a statement completely contrary to the reality of life. From the very inception, life it is a struggle and we try to overcome many trials and tribulations, so that when we succeed it provides in some cases tremendous satisfaction. This is the same with a job. Some people are very bright and strive to get to the top. Others work hard and get a reasonable situation in life and may feel they should get more rewards, but they have tried and are still satisfied. Not everyone can get to the top but life is a compromise. The point being they have tried there best, and probably rationalize why they did not achieve what they wanted, and may have felt cheated. However my guess is they still derived a lot of satisfaction.

I will now get off my soapbox, and not address the other end of the spectrum. How does this relate to soccer? With soccer there are no excuses!  There are reasons. Some children are better athletes or naturally more talented and are destined to be winners. I remember something that John Madden said years ago in a radio program about recruiting football players. If he had the choice between 2 players; one with 50% talent and 100% dedication and another player with 100% talent and 50% dedication he would choose the one with the 100% dedication. It is people with dedication that win in the long run.

So what is the point in playing? To win! Winning games is only part of the equation especially as the result can have 3 outcomes (win lose or draw). The real part is the children knowing they are succeeding. The theme should be are we getting better. Are our skills improving? The philosophy should not be are we playing just for fun because; I regard that as an excuse and a loser’s attitude. Why are the children playing anyway? 

So the challenge is how to direct the children into believing into getting better? There is not a simple solution, but there is a simple focus on improving.  The practices should be structured about winning? The children should have measurable goals that they understand, such as defending, shooting passing etc., with some form of reward such as praise. This is not a one-practice venture, but a relationship with the coach.

I learned a very simple lesson from a coach who coached handicapped children. He used to say to players who had, for example, passed the ball to the other team: “was that your best choice”, and then asked “what would have been a better choice”, the interaction was very positive considering the subject was negative. The theme was always positive because the player had to think and relate. This coach liked to win, but what he was extremely successful at was improving players with limited ability. He used to get players onto the State or District teams (many I said no way would they make it) by positive guidance.

winning means you're doing better than you've done before

Becoming a good soccer player is really not very important but directing children to become better using their own abilities is the real success. I have played on successful teams and poor teams when I was growing up. As I always wanted to win playing on a poor team was not very satisfying but we used to have a positive approach especially when we played a team that had literally killed us previously. Our attitude was if we can keep the score lower that the previous time we considered it to be a success.

I remember talking after training one day to Jack Charlton; that he and his brother (who became one of the all time greats) said; “we must be the only 2 players who won World Cup winners medals and played on a team that lost 16-0”. So I said what did you do about that? He said we all worked hard so that we would not get our rear-kicked so hard next time. Did they play that team again? I never asked.

 So what do I suggest?

Get away from the attitude we are playing for fun because that is a given. Get the children to believe they are getting better and they will have more fun.

 By Michael Ball

 Originally published on my website:

Your FUNdamental,

Koach Karl (Karl Dewazien)