How to Handle a Heartbreaking Loss in Youth Soccer

A coach helping his team - -(Photo: Flickr.com)

When a young soccer team is simply outclassed by their opponents and loses by three or more goals, it is understandable.  The players will be down but they know why they lost, as they simply weren’t good enough.  The difficult losses are the ones where your team felt they had every chance to win the game, but fortune simply fell the way of the other team.  The worst losses in youth soccer are the ones where you felt that your team definitely should have won the game, but a few silly mistakes or errors cost your side and resulted in the defeat.  As a coach, it is your responsibility to put the loss aside and move on from it.  Here is some advice on how to deal with such a painful result.

You do not want to place blame on any one particular player.  You win as a team, and you lose as a team.  Yes, someone may have missed an easy tackle or committed a horrendous foul to give the opponent a game-winning penalty, but individual errors aren’t the solitary factors leading to the defeat.  If your strikers could have scored two more goals, the goalie wouldn’t have caused the defeat by his or her howler, or vice versa.

As a coach, take time to analyze what were a few of the determining factors that led your team to not be able to put your opponent to bed.  Did your team have most of the possession but simply couldn’t create any opportunities? If this was the case, practice a drill that recreates the environment and teach your players how to make smarter runs and passes to get in and around the goal.

Perhaps your team created a bunch of chances, but every time somebody took a shot the ball went sailing over the cross bar. Then you should work on some shooting drills and encourage your team to strike the ball low to keep shots on frame.  Basically, these tactics force you to analyze why your team wasn’t able to win convincingly, and then helps you correct the problem through practice.

Another thing you will have to deal with is helping the players overcome the emotional toll of such a defeat.  When a team suffers a heartbreaking defeat, many of the players will question their abilities and there is that feeling of powerlessness.  Additionally, you need to look out for the players blaming each other for what they perceive as reasons they lost.  Comments like, “Well if Jimmy could have scored that goal we may have won” are poisonous and harmful to everyone.  Make everyone know they lost as a team, and that the whole team needs to improve to prevent similar losses like that occurring.

These are the trying times for any young soccer team, as how people handle their defeats often reflect how they will fare in the rest of their lives.  People that cower and blame everyone else often grow up with the same attitude and become losers.  True winners look inwards and focus on improving their skillset.  Help your players deal with hard losses effectively and you may teach them a valuable life lesson.


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