Win at all costs

May 5, 2021

This week we are discussing winning at all costs in youth football.

This subject is sure to create a bit of debate and one of the first things we have to ask is should youth football be competitive or non-competitive?

If you asked me this question 10 years ago I would have undoubtedly of said that it has to be competitive but having been a parent, coach, club chairman as well as running local futsal leagues over the last 10 years my opinion has changed and being honest I still don't know the answer. There and pros and cons of both and here's a few examples.

Right now the current structure in youth football is non-competitive until 11 a side but despite there being no trophies up for grabs coaches and parents of some clubs are obsessed with winning and put this ahead of player development. You see teams playing their more physically developed players ahead of their technical players just to win matches. Players are pigeonholed in certain positions, just to win matches. Players play multiple games at different levels, just to win matches. Players stay on the whole game whilst others get hardly any game time, just to win matches.

If this is what it is like in a non-competitive environment I can only imagine that it would be worse in a competitive one. I actually believe that this is one of the reasons why we are restricted to players playing within their own year of birth because coaches and teams would abuse the system just so that they can win.

Unfortunately this is not restricted to grassroots either. If you look at any pro academies across the country, the vast majority of players will be from the first half of the year and are selected because they mainly have a physical advantage other those born later in the year.

On the flip side you can argue that by removing competition we are also taking away that competitive spirit that is not only required in sports but life in general. Nowadays everyone is smashing it and everyone gets a trophy or medal irrespective of their effort, attitude, desire or ability.

Can we combine competition and player development?

Is there a better way?

I'd love to know your thoughts.