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Development Philosophy

A Developmental Philosophy
What is a Developmental Philosophy?
A developmental philosophy recognizes that:
(1) Individuals develop (technically, ta
ctically, physically, athletically, and
psychologically) at different rates
and different times. It is therefore important to be pati
ent with each individual to allow that individual to
develop at an acceptable and natural pace.
(2) To develop effectively, individuals need to be pl
aced in an optimal learning environment whenever
possible (e.g. it does little to help the development of
a classic player to be placed in a premier level
(3) Given the practical nature of running any organiza
tion, it may not always be possible to provide the
optimal learning environment (e.g. if there are only
6 players who want to be assigned to a premier level
team, the team cannot obviously be
formed). However, a developmentally
-based organization will strive to
provide the best environment it
can for all its participants.
(4) It is natural for everyone involved (players, parents
and coaches) to want to win. However, in soccer
particularly, you can play much better than the oppos
ing team and lose; or play much worse than your
opponents and win. When everyone involved comes to under
stand this, wining in and of itself, is viewed in
the proper perspective.
(5) Part of learning to deal with a highly competitiv
e environment is learning both how to win and how to
(6) In the hierarchy of importance,
each participant’s individual developm
ent comes first, then the team, then
the club. If you take care to develop each individual in t
he group the team will (for the most part) take care of
itself, and winning won’t be a problem. The club functions
merely as a vehicle through which we provide the
environment for positive individual growth and development.
(7) The vast majority of games
(i.e. those that do not hinder possi
ble future game experiences e.g.
participation in an invitation-only tour
nament) are used to evaluate the tr
aining and preparation, which has
previously taken place.
(8) The long-term development of each individual shoul
d always take precedence over the short-term
success of the team.
(9) Learning how to win and what it takes to
win is far more import
ant than winning itself.
(10) Being able to compete in a hi
gh intensity athletic envir
onment is more important
than winning in a high
intensity environment.
(11) Every participant is entitled to
the highest level of coaching regardless of whether they are on the so
called “A” team or “B” team. (Obvious
ly this does not mean that your mo
st experienced c
oach has to coach
each team at every game-this is not
possible. It does mean that your
most experienced coach should be
training every team as much as possible. With
coordinated planning this c
an be readily accomplished.)
(12) The development of each player is the yardst
ick by which a coach’s ef
fectiveness is measured-not
his/her win/loss record!
Implementing a Developmental Philosophy
Implementing a developmental philosophy
is not an easy task. The first obs
tacle that must be breached is to
overcome existing “team” and “winning” oriented philosophies. This should be done
primarily at pre-season
team meetings (where the information in the above sect
ion is explained) and must
be continually reinforced.
Under most circumstances,
coaches and staff members will not be able
to convince everyone initially (or
even everyone eventually) and it is typically impossibl
e to overcome well-entrenched philosophies with just
one meeting.
What leads most people to eventually
believe is the philosophy in action
i.e. when people see
the individual and team success it brings!
This leads us to the second obstacle:
translating the philosophy into practi
cal implementation or action. It is
not possible here to provide a specific developmental
answer for every question, c
oncern or situation that
might arise in the youth sports ar
ena. However, by far the best gui
deline is: when facing any issue or
decision, the first questi
on a developmentally-based coach should ask is;
“will the consequenc
es of this
decision hinder the long-term growth
of the individuals of this team?”
To answer this question carefully, one must first look
at the consequences. Fo
r example, if you’re
considering getting your U-12 team to play a low risk, di
rect style of soccer (which
many coaches teach) how
will this affect the long-term technica
l and tactical development of your play
ers? In this case it will have an
adverse affect on individual development in these areas. Low risk soccer means defending players don’t
play with any tactical or technical subtlety or sophistication. They are simply asked to “clear the ball”
whenever they can. It’s certainly
low-risk, but over the long-term y
our defenders will end up being the type of
players who can clear the ball and do nothing else.
After looking at the c
onsequences and if the
consequence does not seem to fit into a kind of socce
r that develops technical
and tactical subtlety and
sophistication – do not worry a
bout playing low risk soccer.
The second question asked is “will th
e short-term negative c
onsequences of this dec
ision have a negative
effect on the long-term growth of the individual in th
is team?” This is not alwa
ys an easy question to answer,
primarily because the success
of the individual is almost always ps
ychologically attached to the success of
the team, and these two components are di
fficult to separate. It’s import
ant therefore to focus on how the
individuals in the group are developing (and to continually reinforce this focus by word and deed) rather than
individual losses in the short term.
In addition, a coach may often have to
abrogate the development of one or two individuals in favor of the
majority of the individuals on the
team. Using the State Championship
example, it would be unfair to the
majority of the group to risk their future and further development so that one or two players, who may not be
ready for it, are given the opportunity to
participate in the Championship game.
In short then, the developmentally based coach or program director
should continually ask the following
(1) "
Will the consequences of this decision have a negative ef
fect on the long-term growth of the individual
or individuals on this team"?
"Will the short-term negative consequences of this decis
ion have a negative effect on the long-term
growth of the individual or individuals in this team"?
If the answer to either question is
“yes” than the coac
h should find another solution
that does not affect the
long-term growth of the individual
or individuals on this team.
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