How we measure Player Development

Age Appropriate Training

How do parents know if the team coach is doing a good job of teaching soccer to the players? How does the novice coach know if the kids are growing within the game? As a way to measure success, let’s look at the facts provided a by a study by the Youth Sports Institute, on what players want from their sports experience.

Short Term Development

  • Fun – Do the players smile and laugh? Do the players look forward to playing?
  • Fair Play – Does a player demonstrate a sense of sportsmanship through words and actions?
  • Laws of the Game – Do the players know and follow the rules of soccer?
  • Friendships – Are the players creating new friends within the team and with players from other teams?
  • Skills – Are the players demonstrating a growing number of ball skills?

Long Term Development

  • Commitment – How do the players answer when asked “Did you try your best?”
  • Roles in the Team – Are the players learning about positioning? Do all of the players get exposed to playing all of the positions?
  • Leadership – Are players being given the opportunity to take on leadership roles and responsibilities?
  • Tactics – Are the players experimenting with new tactics in matches?
  • Retention – Do the players come back year after year?

Success does not breed success; it breeds failure. It is failure, which breeds success. If that sounds absurd, think about the careers of many famous winners:

  • Babe Ruth struck out 1,333 times. In between his strikeouts he hit 714 home-runs.
  • Martina Navratilova lost 21 of her first 24 matches against arch-rival Chris Evert. She went onto win more matches and tournaments than any other tennis player.
  • Abraham Lincoln failed twice in business and was defeated in six state and national elections before being elected president of the United States.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his junior high school basketball team, before becoming a sports icon.
  • Theodor S. Geisel wrote a children’s book that was rejected by 23 publishers. The 24th publisher sold six million copies of it –the first Dr. Seuss book – and that book and its successors are still staples in every child’s library.

Trying new ball skills or new tactics will cause errors during matches. Yet if the players do not feel they are allowed to try out these new talents in a match, when will those talents become a part of their game? The sounds coming from the spectators at a youth match should be cheers for when a player tries something new.

Parents can measure their child’s success in soccer by the improving athletic ability of their child, by the growing confidence and self-reliance of the player, by the emergence of refined ball skills, by the opportunity afforded by the coach to play in different positions on the team, by the taking on of leadership and responsibility, by the demonstration of fair play and by the smiles. The final measure of success for parents of their child’s soccer experience will require a good deal of patience from the adults. That measurement is the free choice of the child to stay in the game!