Making Soccer Great: Albert Puig on What comes first, Developing Players or Winning? Part 1
The minute I change my purpose from educational to one that is after a result, I am cutting corners in order to win.
Albert Puig is a former Barcelona F.C. Football Academy coach at La Masía, and now the Assistant Coach of New York City FC. A director with a UEFA PRO license, Albert Puig is determined to help American youth soccer coaches improve their craft.
With 35+ years experience as a coach, mentor, scout, instructor, author, and a speaker, Albert Puig has traveled the world spreading this methodology with unique results, including developing more than 100 players who are competing in top leagues around the globe. The founded APFC Courses as a way to spread this methodology to coaches, players, and parents in youth divisions.
April 8, 2007 – I was back then coaching one of the FC Barcelona youth teams. We had reached the final of the Vila de Peralada against their city rival Espanyol. Early into the first half of the match, a Barca player got injured and the Espanyol players kicked the ball out so this player could be taken care of. When the match restarted with a throw-in, the Barcelona team did not give the ball back to Espanyol and instead scored a goal, making the score 1-0. A consequence of this unsportsmanlike conduct, I called in my team and instructed my players to allow Espanyol to score a goal, which they did. This action was caught on tape and appeared in different media outlets and it highlighted Fairplay values.
As a result, the action and I got recognition not only in the sports world but also by social organizations.
As a result of such an occurrence, I decided to write a book titled “The Force of a Dream,” which touches upon the values which young athletes should be taught, and also values applicable for their life outside of sports.
It talks about failures and disappointments; I hope it is a guide for parents, teachers, and coaches.
It is a book for soccer fans, such as Guardiola, Xavi, Puyol, Rexach, Luis Enrique, whose testimonies you’ll find in the 1-on-1 conversations that I had with them.
Oh and it’s worth mentioning, the Barca youth team ended up winning the match 2-1 and thus taking the trophy home.
The point is: Fairplay and Respect are perfectly compatible with the desire to win and compete.
Some professionals should take note! So it all boils down to this: What comes first, develop players or winning?
Compete or play?
This is a question that often comes up and my answer is that winning and developing/educating are exactly the same.
One wins by developing players and you develop players by winning.
Soccer is a game, and like all games, you must try to win. From that point, you must try to win ethically. When winning you are also developing players and thus also developing people. The key word here is competing, which means trying your best to reach a goal.
You are competing against your rivals but also with yourself … and as a result, you can either win or lose, but the main thing is to compete, putting all your effort at it.
It is important to know that winning will help in development, but you must obviously teach the players to win with humility and lose with dignity, recognizing that the rival was superior.
Remember that you are competing against someone else but also with yourself.
So many times we find coaches, parents, academy directors and other people in youth soccer that talk about the importance of participating more than the result of a match.
Oddly enough, during the game, and with an unfavorable score, they demand that the kids play merely in search of a result – a win.
Excuse me, if I’m calling this out but this is not competing.
Let’s define competing as giving 110% adhering to concepts and guidelines of the game based on continuous development and education, effort and passion. Compete with an identity; with the purpose of developing and educating at a collective and individual level.
The minute I change my purpose from educational to one that is after a result, I am no longer competing, but cutting corners in order to win.
The issue with switching to a result based focus, in most cases, implies playing without conceptual sense, playing based on reacting to the situation instead of playing based on understanding the concepts of the language of the game.
The word compete at youth levels should be understood as playing soccer by learning and comprehending all the concepts in accordance with a development style.
We will never cut corners to win.
If my team competes with concepts, with a style, with an individual and collective identity, the players will improve when identifying and comprehending situations during the game. Winning at youth levels is understanding and dominating concepts training session after training session, game after game, hence reaching a higher level of playing.
We develop players by winning and losing and we participate by competing. One does not exclude the other.
We must understand that “winning” and “losing” are a consequence of the game and not an objective.
Competing is the soul of the game.