What's Wrong with Kids Playing to Win?

Times have changed, football a once simple game is now continually changing both on and off the field.  This article will focus on one such change "Non competition Football" at youth level. So what is non competition football and what's the thinking behind it?.

Non competition football is a initiative currently in use in some European countries.  It's purpose is to introduce weekly football fixtures for youth teams without any results and league tables.  The belief is that this approach to the game will help the kids play freely and without pressure thus allowing them to express themselves without the worry of making mistakes or costing points or goals for their team for example.  But is taking results and league tables away at young age groups really going to be a positive thing?.

Here at Keepitonthedeck we recently surveyed a number of grassroots coaches currently coaching with local clubs within the Rep of Ireland.  Ireland is one of the countries where non competition football is now in existence at younger age groups right up to U11.  One of the coaches spoke about Spain being the benchmark for development at youth level and we quote "Look at Spain, the players and teams they are producing, we are miles behind and have a lot of catching up to do, non competition football is not new it's proven in Spain to have worked".  

We found this quote of particular interest and decided to do some in dept research on Spanish underage football.  The conclusion was that in Spain they in fact play competitive football from as early as U6, and this includes recreational teams not just the professional clubs academies, league tables and top goal scorers can even be found for these leagues from U6 onwards, there is very little non competition football throughout Spain.  

A well known Spanish coach Gerard Font responded during our research to a question about non competition football being in existence throughout Spain "Absolutely false, all spanish football have tables. Including school under 6 football leagues, they have tables also".

So in actual fact it turned out that Spain is a benchmark modern example that progressive development can exist as it has done throughout the history of the sport without any need for non competition football.  It leaves the question, what is the point of non competition football and what are the pro's and cons.  

During our research the most frequent positive advantages people gave examples of in relation to non competition football are listed below.

1.  Kids are not under pressure during games and will try things they normally wouldn't within a pressure environment.


2.  A coach will make subs more often without worrying about the scoreline.


3.  Parents will not get as emotionally caught up in a game heaping pressure on kids to win.


4.  Less kids will leave the sport from the frustration of losing games.

Those are just the main reasons from our survey, there are others on the list.  Here is what we don't get though....

Of all the things listed and throughout our complete list, why can't all these positives exist within a competitive environment?.  To give examples of what we are talking about let us answer the four positive points surrounding non competition football listed above with solutions within a competitive football environment.


1.  Kids are not under pressure during games and will try things they normally wouldn't within a pressure environment.  Our answer = If the kid is playing under the right coach pressure will not exist in the first place!


2.  A coach will make subs more often without worrying about the scoreline.  Our answer = If the kid is playing under the right coach every player will be within his focus to develop.


3.  Parents will not get as emotionally caught up in a game heaping pressure on kids to win. Our answer = If parents are educated about the negatives their pressure from sidelines brings to their child and others they will respect that fun and development is of fundamental importance before results.


4.  Less kids will leave the sport from the frustration of losing games.  Our answer = We would argue that it's in a child's nature to be competitive, it's more fun if they are trying to win or can celebrate victory, children are often respectful in defeat and only succumb to emotion when they feel they have let people down (coaches, parents).  

Non competition football? is this really going to help develop players or is it in fact a solution being brought about to solve issues that actually have nothing to do with the kids at all.  If the focus of coaches and parents was on fun and development first and foremost regardless of competitive football or not we would very much doubt this article or the non competition football initiative would exist.  In countries like England, Ireland, United States, Scotland, Wales and Northen Ireland one thing they have all excelled upon developing and nurturing within young footballers is the will to win, it's allowed them compete the way they have throughout the years, how is non competition based football going to benefit or protect this?.

Most important of all, is it not our responsibility as adults to educate young kids on how to win and lose gracefully, this is an invaluable life lesson that will stand to all children, why is winning or losing a big deal and how have we allowed it become one?.  Let the kids play!