A quick aside. I admit the photo above hasn’t a damn thing to do with this post, but I typed “winning v. development” into the google images engine and up popped Halle Berry, call it karma, but I am not passing on the opportunity to include her in the blog.
There is an apparent debate over the role of winning in the development of young players. The anti-winning proponents posit that winning at all costs comes at the expense of development. They offer over-reliance on prematurely developed ogre-athletes, the outright use of ineligible, overage athletes, questionable recruiting and vaguely-defined dubious tactics of examples of a cancer that eats away at proper development. Make no mistake this argument is seldom made without an enormous dose of self-righteous indignation and self-professed claims of doing things the right way.
I staunchly oppose the use of ineligible players as much as I do self-righteous indignation. I do not buy the argument. Winning is a part of the developmental process. Players and teams work on technical skill, conditioning and tactics to perform better in games. Winning is a measuring stick of that development. With flukish exceptions aside, you will win when you play better than the other team. When you win, you will leave the field with greater confidence in yourself, and greater passion to train and improve. The game provides situations that force development, managing a lead, responding to falling behind, coping with superior physical aggression or an aforementioned, prematurely developed ogre-athlete. These game lessons train athletes not just for their development as players, but for the larger inequities and challenges of life.
Losing is the ass end of winning, and is not without value. In defeat, there is a clarity to individual and team shortcomings that can in context sharpen the focus of development. In proper circumstances, teams lose because they fail to execute what they are trained to do, or lose their poise in the face of adversity. These failings should be addressed honestly, and subsequent training should be directed to tangible improvement in these areas.
It must be accepted that every team assembled does not have the talent or skill to win a title or even win a considerable amount. That said teams should compete in a league of comparable talent so that games are played competitively. No one benefits from a blow out, or a prolonged, uninterrupted series of ass-kickings. Ego should be put aside on both ends, teams playing up when they clearly lack the capacity to do so, and teams that play down to rack up meaningless wins. Competitive games are necessary to spur development and stoke the passion to play.