In our day and time, imperfection is frowned upon. We tell others “It’s ok to fail” but then turn around showing otherwise with our reactions to that failure. This happens in school (grades, scholarships, etc.), in the business world (new ventures, stepping outside the norm, etc.) and more. We tell others to take risks and then wonder why those same people struggle with self image and anxiety if "perfection" isn't obtained.
This happens on the soccer field too. As a coach, I’ve lost track of the times I’ve seen players dread the walk to the car after games; already expecting the “talk” about their performance. Or seeing players make a “mistake” during a game only to look immediately to the sideline for their parent’s reaction. And yet we're puzzled when our players "lack creativity or confidence" on the soccer field. The pressure to be perfect paralyzes them.
Sadly, this "obsession with perfection" affects coaches just as much. With so many soccer players and teams constantly hyped in media, you begin to compare yourself to them. I'll be quick to admit I have to deal with this on a regular basis like many others. I've coached teams for years and you still see the hype of accomplishments at certain elite leagues, showcases, etc. Scrolling through social media, you see a coach/program with seeming “success” and that becomes your new “standard” of success.
We ask ourselves - Why isn’t our player confident? Why is my team not succeeding? What mistakes are we making or are we missing something? What has that coach done different and why aren’t we like them?
The problem is … no one shows all the failures behind that “success”. No one shows the games lost, injuries, time sacrificed, doubt, frustration, etc. While the post you see may look perfect and polished, it rarely shows the multiple video retakes, video editing, etc. that no one sees. We are shown the final product with no idea of what it took to get there.
Ironically, the struggles are what should be shown as they are what actually motivates many to improve! The poor training sessions, 6-0 losses, “back to the drawing board” moments, and more are NEEDED to grow as players, coaches, and people. Additionally, being allowed time and grace to learn from your mistakes is also needed for improvement.
You don't lose when you get knocked down. You lose when you don't get back up and learn."
So what can we do to address this? Simply put, start embracing imperfect as a learning vehicle towards success. View your player's development in a long term lens (as opposed to hyper focused on the immediate results). Instead of demeaning a mistake in a match, highlight where your player tried to play confidently or take a risk to learn from. That 13-U player you have now is preparing for the challenges presented in their senior year/ college career/ professional career. Learning and preparing for the future is much more important than the current club/ high school match. We need to encourage players to fail often (and learn) so they can become confident in themselves in the near future.
We’ve been coaching thousands of players at Quick Touch Soccer Development (QTSD©) since 2013, and yet I will be the first to admit we’re still learning and growing. Just like our athletes, every new training term is a reflection on the previous and how we can better adjust and improve. We ask families and players to treat their journey the same. Embracing imperfection will help you learn what is needed for true success; both as soccer players and people!
Owner/ Director of Player Development
Quick Touch Soccer Development (QTSD©)
LaLiga Expert Certified l US Soccer Licensed