Thoughts from a U11 soccer coach

How To Win (almost) Every Game In Youth Soccer (and why you shouldn’t)

Ian Rowe
2 min readDec 3, 2021

Losing all the time sucks, but at least it is good to build resilience, and highlights the skills your team needs to work on. Winning is fun, but doing it this way is terrible for your players.

A very young player in a red jersey and white shorts watches the game
Winning Is Everything?
  • Play your best player at Striker or Center Mid for most of the game. Only give them a break when they are tired. (If you have two or three then this applies across all three). Many top players at this level are more fit and can play pretty much the entire game.
  • Play your weaker players on the wing, at defence, or in goalie. Keep them in the same positions every game.
  • Put a brave kid (ideally with a big kick) who is not confident dribbling in net and keep them there.
  • Focus on kicking the ball far up the field and having your best players recover it to score. For example, goalie or defense sends ball over the heads of the attacking players, striker/centre mid gets the ball once it is past most of the other team. Use their speed and skill to beat any remaining defending players.

Doing this will ruin all of your players (even your best ones) for the rest of their soccer careers, but it will get you wins.

What You Should Coach Instead

Kids (everyone) wants to win. If you are losing every game and can skew it by double shifting a couple key players, do that every once in a while to keep them engaged. Know that it is a trap, and that learning to lose, to be resilient, and to fight back are fundamentally important skills.

Instead Coach teamwork. Coach skills. I have an whole other article about the key things to teach.

Coach dribbling, building from the back, and make sure all kids rotate through positions over a series of games to develop their total soccer ability (dribbling, passing, finishing, defending, decision making, solving soccer problems). Somewhere around eight or nine make sure your keepers learn to play with their feet as part of building from the back.

The point is that, at this level, coaching to win will ruin the sport for many players as they fail to develop basic soccer skills and knowledge.

So don’t coach to win, coach for life.



Ian Rowe

13 years at Apple, now coaching soccer, reading, paddling, snowboarding, making products, and thinking about development and leadership.