Published by the English FA Learning

GS United Head Coach Aaron Travers was recently contacted by Jordan Montier at English FA Learning Department to submit a second article on the FA Coaches Hive Learning website based around 'Winning vs Development'.

Aaron obliged and provided the below article from his blog on

The article has today been signed off and approved by the FA and published today.

Talking Point: Why trophy winning should always be secondary to player development

Winning vs player development - following some great discussion here in the Community - is a topic that has not failed to divide opinion.

In this article, Aaron Travers, a coach within Jersey FA’s Centre of Excellence with over 15 years’ experience of coaching players aged 5 to senior, discusses why he thinks trophy winning should always be secondary to the impact we have on young players’ lives.

A couple of years ago I read and ‘retweeted’ the following quote on Twitter which sparked some conversation from various coaches.

“Please never forget... Grassroots football is not about the amount of trophies you win. It is about the difference you make to young people.”

I was posed a question about the above quote from a new up-and-coming coach that I thought I would share with you all.

Can you make a difference and win trophies?

My opinion is sure, no doubt about it!

As long as the trophy winning is secondary to the overall impact we have on young player’s lives, the affect we have on them going out and enjoying their football is far more important than collecting any silverware.

Fun and development must take the lead, and as a coaching family we must really do the best we can to focus on the bigger picture. Developing not just a player, but also a young person to believe in themselves while striving to become the best they can be.

Easier said than done?

Possibly. Sometimes we can get caught up in the moment and external pressures will make us second guess our own beliefs, morals and ethics.

However, as a coach you are in a privileged position and it rests upon your shoulders to set the standards in everything you do. Not just standards for the way you want your team to play - god knows we all want to play like Barcelona! But even more importantly - how you manage your own preparations; the environment; behaviour; expectations; set backs; and success of everyone around you, your players, your coaches and the parents of the children you coach.

The mentality of parents

Believe me, I’ve had my challenges in terms of changing the mentality of parents, and in fact, other coaches within the clubs I’ve been at.

However, if you can plant the seeds in the minds of the adults, this is half the battle to winning the kids over to a “developmental philosophy” and producing a better environment for them to learn the game in a relaxed atmosphere.

In my experience, issues arise when coaches or parents see it the other way around, and a “win at all costs” attitude comes before any kind of development. Or in some people’s perceptions - players are only improving if their team is winning.

The perception of substitutes

Being a substitute, or being subbed is still frowned upon and looked at in a negative light by those who don’t truly understand the development of players and the use of “rolling” substitutes!

“A player is coming they must be having a bad game” No, there a plenty of other reasons that a substitution can take place!

Those who undervalue the effort, commitment and learning process of the children are actually the ones whom sit in judgement of whether their child’s team has won or lost as a measuring stick to being a success or failure.

Is it ‘blinkered vision’ or a ‘lack of understanding’?

The easiest one to manage I think are those with a ‘lack of understanding’. We as coaches should be perhaps communicating more with them - helping them recognise what we are hoping to do and how we are trying to improve each player in the squad by challenging their own individual abilities.

However, those with ‘blinkered vision’ are difficult to have a break through with, not impossible, but very difficult. These people are usually set in their ways (of many years) and put results above performance.

This has to be addressed. And it is. But it will take time to turn a nation around.

Can we instil a winning mentality from a young age?

A winning mentality is natural. In any game kids (and adults) play, they want to win. A winning mentality is already there before they get coaches in any sport.

Our job as coaches is to assist and support their learning process regardless of whether they win or lose, and that is one of the biggest challenges that should be addressed by us.

Prepare your squad appropriately and try to help them understand that they need to “compete” against the opposition, never give up, work hard and then they may leave the field of play feeling good about themselves and the effort they have put in. They may have even enjoyed the experience!

Reflection, feedback & understanding is invaluable! And I highly recommend that all coaches do this with their squads.

I have watched junior cup finals and league deciders over the years where some of the substitutes are not even used. All in the name of winning a trophy.

Question for you: How can players get better on the sidelines?

Unfortunately this is viewed upon as the norm! It’s a long path to change and educate - one we need to keep working on continuously.

Personally, I want to ensure that my players look back in ten years time and remember how much fun they had at my coaching sessions. I hope that they have learnt some life skills along the way and not just how to perform on the pitch.

Let me leave you with one final quote I was sent...

“Trophies collect dust, the game collects memories,

what would we prefer our young players to build”

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