COACH LEE GARLICK IS AN EXPERIENCED YOUTH COACH, QUALIFIED WITH UEFA A LICENCE, FA ADVANCED YOUTH AWARD & BSC (HONS) SPORTS & EXERCISE SCIENCE. HE IS CURRENTLY HEAD OF COACHING & COACH MENTOR WITH EXPERIENCE OF COACHING & MENTORING FROM GRASS ROOTS TO THE PROFESSIONAL GAME. Follow him at coachgarlick.co.uk .
I was recently listening to a podcast where the host described a study. In this study, people were asked if they would rather A. earn £100k per year yet all their neighbours earn £120k per year, or B. earn £40k per year and all their neighbours earn £25k per year. Interestingly the majority opted for scenario B, whereby being the richest person yet settling for a significantly lower sum. This got me thinking, firstly why would people settle for less money just to boost status, but secondly if there was any similarity in this thought process with our young players?
So I decided to run a little experiment. I would ask elite players ranging from age 8-16 the following question…
I wasn’t sure what response I would get, or indeed what response I was expecting, but here is what I found…
Out of the 82 boys which were questioned, only 12 opted for scenario A whereby scoring a hat-trick yet losing the game by 4 goals to 3. The remaining 70 boys all went for option B, scoring 1 goal in a 4-1 victory. Initially I must admit I was somewhat happy with this, knowing that winning was important to the majority (see a previous blog regarding the importance of developing winners), however on reflection I had to question myself. This initial overwhelming need for the players to play a small part in the team ‘winning’ was great, however was it at the sacrifice of the individual ‘winning’?
The reason I say this is that at an elite level, developing individuals over teams has to be the primary goal, after all it is incredibly unlikely that a whole team of players will progress through an Academy system and into the senior game as an 11. Therefore, should we as coaches want players who are dare I say it selfish and focused more so on their personal improvement and success over the team? Should individual performance and successes come before that of the team during the developmental years?
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that players must learn to appreciate and understand the importance of the team and the ways in which they operate as a cog in a bigger machine, however I have to admit that these outcomes have left me querying which answer I prefer!
As a disclaimer, there are a few things to clarify regarding the nature of my ‘study’ which may have affected my results. Firstly, I was the one who asked the players the question, 1-to-1 and out of the blue. It is for this reason that I feel come of the players may have given me the answer which they feel I wanted them to hear. Coupled with the nature of my role with the players involved, perhaps they were worried about being different or selfish.
What was extremely interesting to me when conducting this study was not only the favouritism towards scoring a hat-trick in the youngest age group, but also the way in which these players answered the question. Each and every one of the 5 youngest players who opted for scenario A answered instantly, without consideration, with utter confidence and sheer joy at the thought of scoring a hat-trick! This amazed me, and left me wondering if perhaps we as coaches are to blame for altering this innate selfishness and desire to succeed as an individual as our players get older?
To close, this was by no means the perfectly conducted, journal-worthy study, however I hope it acts as food for thought. I know it’s got me thinking, questioning and re-evaluating, which surely can’t be a bad thing.
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