Development v Winning

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


By Trent Cooper


When I look back at my early coaching days, in charge of school age teams, I am embarrassed about how I coached and how focused I was on winning. I justified it to myself that it was the kids that really wanted to win and I was providing to their needs in the way I coached.

I now watch a fair bit of junior football and am aghast at how a lot of the coaches go about their business. I hope I was never as destructive as some of the examples that I see but there are similarities and hopefully anybody reading this article might reassess the way they coach at a junior level.

Coaching at 18ís level now, my primary role is to develop players to be ready to play senior football for our club and, for some, at AFL level. This means that selection will more often than not be compromised by exposing talent that may not be ready to play at the level or putting players in positions that may adversely affect the result but will help in their development of certain skills.

When players get to my squad, there are some skills that I hope they possess and others that are not important but can be learned through their football journey.

Kicking and handballing may seem obvious skills that should be improved consistently but I have seen Year 9 sessions with one football between the whole team for long periods as they are taught a defensive press that might help them to win a Sunday morning fixture.

I would hope that our new players are able to pick the ball up cleanly without fumbling and be one-touch players in the air, and I donít care if they know the difference between a 3-4-5 and 2-4-6 kick-in defensive zone.

When I get to talk to junior coaches, I tell them that their most important KPI should be how many of their players return to play the following year. We should hope that junior coaches can instill how great our game is into the players and that they go on to enjoy footy for many years, at whatever level they find their niche.

The kids will want to win, so there is a balance that you have to find between giving them their chance to get the result they are after and to developing them. Winning close games is indeed a skill in itself and we work on that at the 18ís level but the result will not be the major focus of our weekly review.

If you want to test yourself as a ďwinningĒ coach, there are places for you to utilize your skills. Senior amateur sides are always crying out for competent coaches and it is easy to find a team where a lot of the players arenít really in the development phase but love winning week to week.

If you do decide to coach juniors, you have an extremely important role and should focus on your players enjoying the experience and improving the basic fundamentals. Be the coach that taught a future AFL star how to kick on his opposite foot, not the one who used that playerís brilliance to dominate in the middle all game and your fantastic game plan to win a Year 9 Grand Final.


Trent Cooper is Colts (18ís) Coach at Swan Districts Football Club.

This article was written as part of the requirements for AFL High Performance Coach Accreditation., 03-08-16 12:50:
Trent what a great article to read, yes it's about developing a team culture a fun environment and winning is good but you can't focus on that.

I'm a total believer in this practice, it's such a pity to hear about the pressures put on jnrs and seniors teams.


Markita Bond

You can google me.

keep up the great work.Trent Cooper.

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