Player Development vs Results

Everyone enjoys winning and if you lose every single week, particularly by large margins, it gets miserable very quickly. Results can be the currency you use to get people to believe in your philosophy, but equally, a good philosophy and approach should lead to improved results, as long as you're playing at the right level for your players. So winning carries a certain amount of importance, but from a player development point of view, nobody can get better if they aren't worked with in training or don't play in matches, so development matters too. I would argue it matters more than winning, particularly at the younger ages (a lot more).
 
The good news is, you can do both - win and develop your players. If you have a clear idea of where you're headed and how you want your team to play, if you are always looking to improve as a coach, if your training sessions are well planned and appropriate to the players’ needs, if your players are working hard and if you are challenged, playing at the correct level for your team then player development should lead to playing better football and therefore to winning more often.
 
Remember that the amount of importance you and the other adults involved place on winning will directly affect the enjoyment your players get from the game. If your attitude is that a great performance that ends in an unfortunate 1-0 defeat isn’t worth celebrating, whilst the scrappy 1-0 win you got when you played terribly but got lucky gets the plaudits, your players will soon learn to associate their enjoyment of a game with the end result rather than the actual game itself or how they played. Celebrate playing brilliant football, celebrate an improvement from last week, even if only marginal, celebrate putting what you worked on in training into practice in a match and the kids will enjoy themselves a whole lot more.
 
There is a video the FA were showing on the first day of the youth module 1 course, where they had interviewed a bunch of different grassroots football players (age 7 to 14) and asked them what they liked most about football. They gave answers like "it's fun", "I love scoring goals", "I like playing with my friends", "I like learning new skills". Winning was quite low down on the list, but interestingly, when they asked adults the same questions, winning was very high up. So whilst there seems to be a progression, especially at the more competitive levels, to winning becoming more important as you get older, even at these age groups, you can still have a huge influence over the enjoyment of your players by having a healthy approach to winning yourself. The parents will generally follow your lead on this too.
 
 
Short Termism vs Long Termism / Over-Reliance on Individuals…
It’s worth looking at your squad really carefully and asking yourself if there are any players who perhaps aren’t getting a fair chance to shine because you rely too heavily on the same 2 or 3 players. Are there also elements of the stronger players' games that need work but you don’t focus on that because they’re so effective at what they do do? The early developer who dominates a mini soccer match on a small pitch isn’t necessarily the same kid who shines in 9 a side or 11 a side football when other skills are required in addition to the more “obvious" ones, especially if improving his technique has been ignored because he's been so fast / big / strong that he hasn't needed to be that good with the ball. It's a hugely common issue in all sports and one you can help negate by being aware of this during the early stages of your players' development.
 
Don't write off the smaller, slower, less confident players at a young age. If you keep them interested, engaged, involved and practicing, some of them will grow into your best players in the long term. If they never play, they can't do that though.
 
Short term vs long term also comes into play when planning your training sessions and we've included some thoughts on that here...