What it Takes to Win
8 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Youth Soccer Team

The article below was published in the Sept./October 2015 issue of the NSCAA Soccer Journal on page 10. The Soccer Journal is published by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America ("NSCAA"), which has over 30,000 members. David has been a member for years, and we encourage all coaches to join the NSCAA. Members receive the Soccer Journal magazine and liability insurance that covers most soccer-related activities. David found the liability insurance alone to be worth the cost. Go to www.nscaa.com for more information. Prior issues of the Soccer Journal are available for viewing at www.nscaa.com/education/resources/soccer-journal.

By David Huddleston. David has been a NSCAA member since 1997 and owns www.SoccerHelp.com. A version of this article was originally published on https://www.facebook.com/SoccerDrillsandGames.

This article was inspired by an article by Jay Martin in the November 2014 issue of Soccer Journal. The title of the article is "Playing vs. Competing" and it starts with Jay watching a college game between two top 10 soccer teams. One of the teams was clearly more talented and had better skills, but they lost to a team that had less skill but that played harder and had more "will to win". That article caused me to think about the "will to win" and what it takes to win.

Most coaches prefer winning to losing, but as every experienced coach knows, winning is the result of a lot of things. You can't just say "We are going to win" and expect that to happen. Skills are important, but individual skills alone aren't enough - teamwork, hustle, the will to win, and other things also matter. Success results from doing the right things with the right attitude, but what are "the right things" and how can a coach teach the "right attitude"?

Below is a list of some things every youth coach can do to give his or her team the best chance to be successful. I have stated them as Sayings that I would tell my team like a Philosophy. It is also a good checklist to use for ideas about how to improve your team. You can motivate or teach all of these things.

  1. "We win because we are prepared." Practice and prepare mentally and physically.
  2. "We win because we hustle." You can motivate hustle. Hustle is an attitude - it is how we play and practice.
  3. "We win because we are Brave." We aren't scared of facing any team. When we fall, we get back up. We aren't afraid of the ball. You can motivate Bravery.
  4. "We win because we play hard and do our best." You can motivate this.
  5. "We win because we improve at every practice and every game." Motivate your players to come to practice, and set achievable objectives for each player's improvement, and praise each player's improvement. Encourage and motivate your players to improve in some way at every practice and every game.
  6. "We win because we play as a team and care about the team." You can motivate this.
  7. "We win because every player does his job and trusts his teammates to do their jobs." You can teach this.
  8. "We win because we never give up." You can teach this.