Process vs Outcome Development in Soccer

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The impact of soccer programs on the Process vs Outcome in soccer player development

We first started thinking about the soccer player development process in terms of Process vs Outcome when I heard Colin Cowherd talking about this on his radio show, The Herd. He discussed about players falling in love with either the process or the outcome. He used Cam Newton as an example of a person that was in love with the Outcome (scoring touchdowns) and Tom Brady in love with the process (preparation). Do your soccer programs help your child fall in love with the process of development? Or are they in love with the outcome (scoring a goal, winning, etc)?

Process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.Outcome: a final product or end result; consequence; issue.

The majority of soccer programs help kids fall in love with the outcome, and who can blame them? The development process takes time and hard work. For those in love with the outcome, they want practice to be fun and they want to score goals during the game or it’s not fun. They want to win or they don’t enjoy playing. They are in love with outcome of the performance. These kids are waiting for the score so that they can celebrate. Kids don’t want to be involved with doing all the hard work to prepare and be in the best position to score, but they come out to play for the scoring and/or winning. They want to see mom and dad’s reaction to their goal. They want to know if they get Pizza or a slushy after the game. Good soccer programs will help kids develop into kids who love the process and outcome.

Let me make it clear, there is nothing wrong with being someone who is in love with the outcome. This just means you enjoy this part the most. Since you want a good outcome, the soccer player will try very hard during the game to get a good outcome and maybe score that goal and win the game. However, their performance may be subpar due to less preparation (less soccer training, less stamina, less strength, less experience, etc.) because they forgot about the process and its importance. Soccer programs tend to forget about the process. Have you ever seen all these soccer programs?

For those kids that are in love with the development process, this phase is fun and doesn’t seem like hard work. These soccer-loving kids would rather be involved with this process forever, they look forward to soccer practice and the film room more than the actual game. These are the kids that will attend every game and practice, show up early for practice, stay late, play with friends and family, and always want more. These soccer players can’t get enough training because they want to ensure they are prepared for the game and they ENJOY the process. What soccer programs out there are helping kids develop this habit? not many, but you as a parent or coach can help by creating a culture.

Kids in love with the development process come from a soccer culture where training, playing, and watching are part of their lives. They did not attend special camps or soccer programs to help them fall in love with the game. These kids don’t see training or watching soccer as a chore. They want their favorite player’s jersey, they care about the outcome of the soccer match on TV, about the players on their team, their tools (ball, shoes, uniform), and the fields. These youth soccer players want to win, but also put in the work to prepare. They will start a pick up soccer game anywhere (at a party, at a sleepover, front or backyard, with odd or even number of players, with family, with kids at a park, on grass, on concrete, and/or with a ball of any size.

The kids that are in love with the soccer player development process are the majority that make it to the professional level and the ones that make up the world’s best players. They don’t ask why the coach scheduled practice during Johnny’s birthday party. They don’t ask why there are two games scheduled on the same date or back to back. The only thing they will complain about is not enough soccer. Just look deep into the early lives of any soccer superstar today and you will find that they were in love with the soccer player development process.

Professionals today had family that played, they came from a soccer culture, they played all day every day, they played on multiple teams, and still love playing. I’ve never heard a professional say they made it because of specific soccer programs, instead they discuss their culture, environment, and family. Messi visits his family in Argentina in the off season. While there, his older brother had registered him as a player on his outdoor league team. Messi WANTED to play. What professional soccer player wants to go home to play in a men’s outdoor league? Messi, that’s who. But that’s what he is used to. Playing at the local men’s league is a sense of pride and part of his culture, so he was excited to play. How or why would the world’s best player care about a local men’s league…..

Take a look on this blog and find out about some of the players we have written about like Ronaldo, Beckham, and Messi. They were all the same. They grew up in a culture where soccer games, practice, and playing was part of growing up. Their player development process was a part of their culture, so they learned to love the process. It’s almost like their language, the foods they eat, the schools they attended, it’s what you do.

What we can learn from the soccer player development process vs outcome conflict is that we can help our son or daughter learn to love the process by being part of it ourselves (as soccer parents or coaches). Stop searching for the soccer programs that you think will have a magic pill. Those soccer programs don’t exist. It’s up to your son or daughter to start training and become part of the process. We can view training, games, and everything else that comes with the territory as a positive influence on our youth players, teams, and family. Celebrate the process by giving a pick up game as much importance as the final championship.

When the kids are young, does the U8 championship really matter? At the end of the day, it’s part of the process and no one will care about it when you are 20 years old. Instead focus on how blessed we are to be able to play and compete. Set up a fun routine like a “pre game” meal. Then add lacing up the boots, putting on the uniform, traveling to the game, meeting up with all your teammates and warming up with them.

At this time, this is what I have my 9 year old focus on. We wake up early on game day and prepare a “breakfast of champions” in the morning (egg whites, bacon, and fresh veggies and sometimes a smoothie). The kids look forward to this and remind me about it at night. The night before we gather the uniform and shoes and lay them out. She then asks me to arrive early so she can have time to warm up. She never attended specific camps or soccer programs to learn to love the process. We created this environment. She has bought into the process and seeks out opportunities to learn. Although we know ultimately athletic ability will impact performance, we are giving her the best opportunity to succeed. The best part is that no money has been spent on expensive “soccer programs” because the best one is free.

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