What Makes a Winner? Can you lose a game and walk away as a winner? There is ZERO question that a youth player can be a winner when the scoreboard reads in favor of the other team. Let's talk about how player can leave the field as winners - even when the score board says otherwise. A Sample GameLast weekend, we played against a team and walked away with a scoreboard win. In our case, the scoreboard win was also a morale booster because we've been playing numbers down against some pretty strong team this season. The win was just what we needed to restore some confidence and remind us that we know how to play. The other team was pretty discouraged though. I could see it on their faces as they left the field. I asked the other coach if I could address this team. Just so you coaches out there know, this isn't something I usually do, but I had a good chat with the other coach during the game and given the time and place, it felt like the right thing to do that day. I shared an observation with the other team's players. A few of them never gave up. To them, the score didn't seem to matter. They kept giving it 100% the entire game. As a coach, I am so impressed when my own players do this that i thought it might be a good learning moment for the other team. "You guys gave my team a good run today." I said "Thank you for giving us a good fight." "I saw some of you guys not giving up throughout the entire game." I continued. "You guys kept going 100% all the way through. As a coach, that really impresses the heck out of me. It doesn't matter what the score board says. Today, you guys who stayed strong and kept going until the end are walking off this field as winners. I appreciate when I see a winner's spirit on the field. You guys who kept at it have that winner's spirit!" I thanked the coach for an opportunity to speak to his team and left. The Winner's SpiritI've seen this winner's spirit on the field on both winning and losing teams for years. It doesn't look like kids dancing around after the scoreboard shows a higher number. In fact, it often looks like grit and determination, a smile and a genuine handshake from a player (or a coach) on the side of a team that just lost. As a coach, I'm looking for the winning spirit at practice. It shows itself in how well our players commit to being there. Are they pushing through the beep test? Are they engaging 100%. Are they making mistakes and allowing themselves to move past them? I personally think what I see in practice is important. It's the first chance I get to see what kind of spirit each of my players has, and how hard they work in practice is usually a good indicator of how hard they will work in games. I believe the winning spirit comes out best when the score is stacked against us. I'm looking for players who don't quit. The ones who push even harder when the scoreboard is stacked against us. When I hear players calling a "new game" or a "Zero/Zero" when the second half starts and they take on the game with renewed energy - those players are lions! It's easy to dance around and be happy when you're winning. But to pick yourself up and go all in when you're down... that's NOT easy. When players pick each other up instead of beat one another down, they are showing leadership. When players start verbally abusing one another, by contrast, pointing fingers, or blaming the referee, they are losing in more way than just on the scoreboard. Taming the LionI suspect that if a lion tamer were to tell his or her story about taming lions, they would probably talk about how each lion has their own personality. Ideally, we want there to be the heart of a lion in every player. As coaches, we want players to be able to draw on their own strengths and spirit on the field and use that energy when it counts. It's a delicate thing to connect and draw out the best form each player. Some require a stick. Others require a carrot. Some require a mixture of carrot and stick.
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