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Paradigms, Judgments, and Complacency By Rick Zitelli

Yes, I will admit the title is provocative as it was intended to stir some feelings from all the coaches that read Coach Gianni’s newsletter, at least I hope it does! It seems that something in human nature seeks the path of least resistance whenever possible to satisfy a solution to one’s dilemma.

I propose this argument for the reader: Many of us that coach or play are not interested in competing, but rather, we are interested in winning. This is lazy in my opinion.

It is no surprise that coaches and players want to have a winning team. There is so much joy and a sense of accomplishment that comes with winning a soccer match. Winning also suggests to players and coaches (perhaps falsely) that training and performance are good. Consider this, though, after a winning a match most of us don’t think about how we can improve. When we lose, generally speaking, we seek answers to improve our performance. We aren’t as focused on winning after losing as we are improving our performance.

At tryouts I hear coaches talk about selecting players to form a winning team, and this saddens me somewhat for a couple of reasons. A coach is a person who teaches or instructs another to learn a skill or idea. A true teacher loves to teach. There is such a feeling of satisfaction when the student for the first time understands the idea that has been worked on for a period of time. To watch the shift in thinking in another human being and realizing that you, as a coach, had a part in changing for the better (hopefully) the way another person views a situation is a terrific feeling. Perhaps one of the highest callings a person can aspire too is to teach, or coach another to a higher level of awareness and ability, yet many times coaches give away the best part of their job when they seek only to form winning teams, instead of finding players ready to compete.

Competitive soccer programs should be about players and coaches having the desire to compete with an opponent (other than themselves). Recreational soccer programs are about players looking for an activity to stay fit and socialize. Both should be about fun. There is no professional status here except for the coach and if he or she is not having fun coaching, then they should to find another career. Both recreational and competitive programs can have winning and competitive teams in the purest sense of the words. In one case, recreational soccer, the objective is pleasure and fun. In the other case the objective is competition through which fun and satisfaction are derived. No program that I am aware of except within the professional level states that the club’s objective is “WINNING” soccer.

Picking a winning soccer team is easy, but a picking a competitive team is difficult. Find the biggest, fastest, most highly skill players in an age group and put them on one team and you will win most of the time (until about age 17 and then things shift somewhat). You are not a coach on this kind of team, you are a cheerleader. And as a player, your development may likely be retarded for a while as you and your teammates easily win matches.

Competing and finding competitive players is more difficult, and therefore most of us don’t want to do it, yet this is the world of real champions. Finding players and coaches that wont quit on themselves and their teammates or look for another club to associate with when winning is rare is difficult, but worth all the effort to find. Finding competitors means looking deeper into the person, it means looking for “heart” in a player. It means looking for the spark in them that says: “bring it on, give me your best shot and let’s see what I can do with it”. It means knowing that losing a match is a temporary setback and a great learning opportunity to see what I know. Competing is the end result, not a means to the end (winning) for a real player or coach. Competing also means being humble and ready to learn at every opportunity.

We can get stuck in our own thinking about the objectives of playing and coaching young players. Often other coaches cannot help us out of our little black boxes (our paradigms) because they too are in a similar box along side of us. With no light, and seemingly no way out of the box, we continue with the same way of thinking about a problem or situation until one day a person, a “teacher” walks along beside us and challenges our thinking and offers a new approach. The competitors among us will humble ourselves to listen, learn and take up the challenge to struggle if need be to get better and to pass along the lessons we have learned.


Rick Zitelli is the founder of Performance Solutions. The motivation for it is to teach more effective methods to succeed in business, life, and athletics. Performance Solutions provides workshops for businesses and organizations as well as private consulting.

Rick Zitelli is a Certified Financial Planning Practitioner, sports psychology, business and leadership consultant, and vibrational healing practitioner. He resides in Petaluma CA., and can be contacted at:

Posted on 18 Jan 2007 by coachgianni
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