Winning vs. Development in Youth Soccer
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Winning vs. Development with Terry Foley

Terry Foley is one of the most winning youth coaches in U.S Youth Soccer.  He has won over 30 State Championships in Virginia and, most importantly, has consistently, over 25 years, developed players to go on and compete at the next level – whether that be for college or country.  Terry is the president and owner of FC Virginia, a youth club based in Northern Virginia.  (post note - Terry has now retired from the youth game and moved to Florida)

In this interview I ask:

  • What does a team look like when they are playing to win versus playing to develop players?
  • What should parents look for when they are seeking a developmentally appropriate soccer environment for their child?
  • When is it okay to try to win?

Terry discusses important points for parents to consider such as:

  • The style of play of a team and coach focusing on developing players.
  • How important it is for parents for find a coach they trust.
  • The fact that playing time leads to development.
  • When a parent makes the wrong choice for the child.

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Skye:
Thanks for joining us at soccerparenting.com. I'm here today with Terry Foley to talk about winning versus development. Terry's been a youth coach for what? Probably over 25 years? 20, 25 years?

Terry:
Yeah.

Skye:
He's coached over 30 state championship teams. He's coached hundreds of kids that have gone on to play in college. Numerous national team pool players. He's the president and owner of FC Virginia, which is a youth club in Northern Virginia for boys and girls. So Terry, thanks for joining us today.

Terry:
You're welcome.

Skye:
Well, let's jump right into it. Winning versus development. What does a team look like when they're playing to win versus when they're playing to develop their players?

Terry:
Well, I think you see a different style of play. I think that you see it, particularly in the younger age groups, that there's a more direct style of play. Players not taught to be technical, they're not taught to pass the ball around. You'll see a lot of players or a lot of coaches kicking long balls and having the goalkeeper kick the ball 78 yards. I was at the Virginia U12 State Cup semifinal last year, and I don't think the ball was passed in their own half the entire game, and it was a battle of how far the goalkeeper would kick it and could we get on the end of it.

So a lot of the players out there hardly touch the ball at 11 years old, which is a great example of winning versus development. If you see a team that rolls a ball out in the back to the goalkeepers, and they're trying to teach the players to pass the ball around, you can see from a parent point of view that that coach is trying to teach the kids the right game.

If you see a coach that wants his goalkeeper to punt it 70 yards and get on the end of it. I mean, through experience, if you look at a lot of successful teams at nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, have that one or two quick kids up front that can outrun everybody and may put four out of 10 chances in the back of the net, but that's good enough to win.

It's interesting, I was in England last week with some club coaches in California who said if they were not in the top three in their area by U11, U12, they'd lose their players, and I think that's a significant problem in America at this time.

Skye:
Yeah, I talk about finding an appropriate environment for our players, for our children, for parents to seek appropriate environment for them based on their athletic potential, based on their skill, based on their mentality. We seem to get caught up in the... Is the team winning or not? So what advice do you have for parents to stop this from happening as they're selecting a player environment for their children?

Terry:
Well, I think one of the biggest issues is the education of a parent to know how good their kid is, what's the right environment for their kid. And the other problem, of course, is coaches being honest. If you're in a club environment and you have a good environment, and the coaches are honest, the coaches will tell you the appropriate environment for your player.

That said, I mean, we experience it in our club where a player would be better off on our second team because they would get more playing time, and in terms of development, play a lot more. And what they do is they leave, and they go somewhere else because they want where the badge, or being on ECNL team, or a State Cup team instead of doing what's right for their kid in terms of development.

So I think a lot of it is the education of parents. I think it's the ability to trust the coaches that are in the club, and it's the job of the coach to be honest with their players and tell them exactly where their player belongs and where they fit. And then it's up to the parent again to make an educated decision. And that, in my opinion, lots of times they don't make the right decisions for their kids.

Skye:
Right. Just because they're almost caught up with an ego of some sort of wanting their child to play on the top team.

Terry:
Yeah.

Skye:
When does it become okay to win? I had a parent ask me that the other day and I thought that was a good question.

Terry:
Well, in the rest of the world, I think that if you look at the FIFA or what you aim for doing in terms of coaching and development, there's a thing called the competitive age, which is 15, 16. So I think from nine to 14, you're looking to develop players, and at 15, 16, it becomes a more competitive environment where you're teaching players to win.

I always think if you're teaching the players the right way anyway, you're going to win at some point and younger than that, but you keep your win doing things the right way. The models around the rest of the world and for all the coaching seminars we've been to, saying that the competitive age is 15, 16, even at a professional academy. Last week I was at Arsenal, and their competitive age is 15, 16. So it's very important obviously that at some stage, again, it's development versus winning when at some point, you have to become competitive. But it's a period of what point, and I think that a lot of coaches have driven by what the parents want instead of doing what's right for the kids and the players on the team.

And I was caught up in that many years ago, to be honest. I mean, I used to win state cups and sacrificed plenty of players playing time to do so, and you know what? Through maturity and learning and growing as a coach, I think that now we tell all our coaches from nine to 14 to play everyone half a game, and that includes ECNL games, and we're one of the few clubs to do it. But I think our kids are pretty successful at 13, 14, and they're still playing half a game. If a kid is not good enough to play half a game for us, they need to play on the second team.

Skye:
Excellent. I'm sure that is something that's evolved for you over the many years that you've been coaching. Well, thanks for giving us some insight in the differences between winning and development and what parents can do as they're seeking the most developmentally appropriate environment for their child.

Terry:
You're welcome.

Skye:
Be sure to check out the rest of this conversation at soccerparenting.com in our expert content area. Thanks.


About the Author Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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  • Terri anroman says:

    Interesting video and I’ve heard many times over that you shouldn’t care about a vs b team but I have seen a serious difference between the 2 in many clubs. Specially in talking about commitment from both the coaches and the players. The less experienced coaches get assigned which means training quality is not as high. Players on the 2nd team in some clubs just don’t show the same level of commitment to the team. As a parent if the b team is just there to make money than that is not the right place for your child either.

    • Terri anroman says:

      This is totally true and I have seen it in many clubs. Can the club show stats of how many kids came up from the b team over the last few years? Shows true development ? Rather than just going out and buying new talent year after year. Most can not from my experiencez

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