I have a curse with U10s and cup games. My first two games in charge of an U10 team came in the form of a cup game, and both times my boys lost by six goals. Now, if this was me three years ago when I started out as a schoolboy-aged coach, I would be distraught. Or even last summer when it took me a long time to get over a 3-9 drubbing. But yesterday's loss turned out to be one of the best losses I've ever seen, and for all the right reasons.
We conceded four from corners, first time in my football life I've seen a team scoring that many from. Our goalkeeper spilled one of them to no fault of his own as the field was soaking wet and gripping on to the ball was almost impossible. He came in at halftime telling me he didn't want to be in goal anymore. I told him he was doing absolutely fine and that he had no fault in the goals. The lad picked his head up and finished the game with some amazing saves and bravery, earning himself the man of the match award.
Five minutes before half time at 0-4 down I took off another player who was running his socks off the entire half and at no point showed any sign of letting his head drop. I told him I had nothing to say because he was doing absolutely brilliantly. His response was one I've rarely seen from a player in a team four goals down in a cup match: he punched the air in delight with a very audible "yes!" coming out.
All these made me a very happy coach regardless of the result. The boys know how tough I am in training, but very laid back and quiet when it comes to matches as I believe, and always tell them, it's a time for them to show how much they've learned from training and most importantly to have fun. Do I care about the result? Yes, but not anywhere near as much as what the boys have learned from the match and knowing they enjoyed themselves and had fun.
Kids are kids, and football is meant to be fun. Let's not make it any different. Plenty of positivity, praises and encouragement will go a long way in fostering young athletes.
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.