I have seen debates about the side effects of giving personal awards to youth players at the end of the season. A number of coaches are against the idea, saying it undermines the effort of other players to simply recognize the top scorer or top assist while other coaches believe that a player should be recognized for the hard work they put in during the season in matches and training, and that it is a good motivator for them.
Here is my take on the issue: I believe that end of season awards can be a good thing especially for most improved and best effort players. During the end of season awards ceremony at camp, I was able to give out the Most Improved Player award to a lad who went from being a fringe player on the team to an absolute presence on the pitch. He started the season trailing behind his teammates in terms of confidence, but he was the one that took training seriously and really tried to improve his game. We joined an invitational tournament at the end of July, and the lad was finally able to transfer his training performances into games. He was a beast in midfield, controlling the ball with confidence and playing through balls for his teammates in which a couple of goals were scored from. Being able to see him perform with so much more confidence compared to the beginning of the season made me truly proud. When his name was read out for the award and he came up to me to receive the trophy, I could clearly see his face beaming with happiness. I have not seen a player more delighted to win an award than he did and he completely deserved it.
Rather than simply rewarding players for scoring goals or assisting, recognizing them for putting the extra effort into training and their eagerness to learn and become better can be an important factor in both their development and maintaining their interest in the game, both during training and in matches.
About the Author
Bao "Terry" Cao is currently a coach at Manchester United Foundation and the FA Development Centre for girls. Terry is licensed by both the FA and USSF. He shares his personal experience of being involved in youth soccer as both a coach and an outside viewer.