How to help players handle winning and losing
How do you respond when emotions run high? Young teams might struggle to deal with the results of a football match. Pete Sturgess, FA national coach for players aged 5-11, explains nine things you can do to help.
1. Help kids deal with losing
Kids enjoy competition, and there’s no need to push them to win. But they might not be equipped to handle the ups and downs that come with it, especially when they're the ones losing.
As an adult, it’s your job to be consistent in helping them navigate the bumpy road of competition. Look for chances to show them how to deal with hardship and frustration with dignity and respect.
2. Don’t take results personally
Coaches behave worst when they feel that the result is a reflection of them. It’s not.
You aren’t the best coach in the world if your team wins. And you’re not the worst coach in the world if they lose. Once you get to grips with that concept, you can start doing valuable work with your players.
3. Know your own values and beliefs
Take time to think about your values and beliefs, both as an individual and as a club.
Know what they are and no matter the situation, whether you’re winning or losing, you can go back to those values and beliefs as a map for how to act.
4. Recognise that the result does matter
When coaches tell children that the result isn’t important, it sends out the wrong message.
The result matters to everybody involved. But the way the team and players behave during the game is the most important thing. If you do lose the game, try to not lose the lesson.
5. Remember that kids imitate adults
Of course, it's disappointing if your team loses. But it's your job to act as a filter to help the children deal with their emotions. Instead of blaming, arguing or finding excuses, focus on the things you are in control of.
Wear your feelings on your sleeve and the kids will pick up on that. They simply copy what the grown-ups do when the game is lost.
6. Define what winning means to you
Maybe your team reacted well to adversity. Perhaps they never gave up in a tight game. Or the players consistently behaved in the right way. Having the right attitude is as much of a win as winning the game 3-0.
Instil winning behaviours that reflect your team's philosophy and values, and your players can come back to them in any situation.
7. Consider how far you've taken the team
A great question for coaches is, “Tell me where your team started and where they are now. But don’t tell me any of the results in between.” This is a critical measure of development.
If you adopt this attitude, you’ll find that results improve. All the good work is being done during the process.
8. Understand the importance of winning with dignity and respect
Winning with the right attitude is just as important as losing with it.
We should encourage all our young players to be real competitors and warriors. At the same time, they must handle both winning and losing with dignity, respect and humility.
9. Recognise that you’re not Mourinho or Conte
It can be dangerous to mimic the behaviours displayed by role models at the top of the game. Think about the domain that they’re working in. One bad result and they could lose their job.
But you won’t say goodbye to your position as the local under-8s coach because you lose a match. As a coach of young children, you require a totally different attitude to those whose whole lives depend on the result.