Yesterday the papers featured a very zealous football coach. He coached Under-10s and had sent out an email saying he was not there so the boys could have fun playing– he was ‘only interested in winning’. He said parents who complained when their boy did not make the first team were ‘not doing their sons any favours’. Those who opposed him were ‘weak-minded’ and ‘think sport is about knitting’. In his email, the 42-year-old company director, who had coached the under 10s for more than two years, told parents: ‘I am only interested in winning. I don’t care about equal play time or any other communist view of sport. ‘Those that are not as good need to work harder or demonstrate more during training, or change sports.’

The BBC phoned to ask what I thought and said they were having difficulty in finding anyone who supported the Coach’s stand. This was a successful football team, he had 25 on the books and pointed out that most would not get a game as he plays to win. He might argue that his stance shows very positive results, but it seems fairly short-sighted. Even the biggest Clubs have Youth Teams they nurture, and boys have a habit of growing in spurts and developing physical skills in fits and starts. A friend remembers teaching Ian Wright [very famous and successful player, capped any number of times] when staff suddenly became aware that the boy had serious talent, at about 14.

More significant is the dampener this puts on all those kids who are willing and enthusiastic. There are very few individuals who are amazingly talented but a huge number who have something about them, a motivation that will take them a very long way. Genius is said to be ‘One per cent Inspiration, Ninety nine percent Perspiration’, and that seems to be true in all areas. A greater percentage of talent is wonderful, but, without the practice, nothing much will happen. So I am sure this is the wrong approach for the majority. The majority need the opportunity to play in a team, to learn all about playing with others, sharing, allowing others to star and take the goal kick, to realise that there can be glory in playing at left-back rather than scoring goals. And some of them will go on to do incredibly well in some area or another. Most will grow out of football – and maybe into another competitive sport, or maybe just into ‘knitting’!!!.

This statement also ignores the benefits gained by the star players. Life needs a lot more than stars. It needs workers who are valued for their effort. Stars need to learn that they are only able to Star if others allow it – talent is god-given and the Star’s role is particularly down to good fortune. I remember a boy who was dyslexic but ‘didn’t need to deal with his problems’ because he was great at football [he was 11]. And he was, and got a Premiership place at 17. During his first season, he broke his leg and was out of the game forever.

Everyone needs to learn how to be a star [maybe] but also how to support. Everyone needs to learn how to value the skills of others. Everyone has to learn that sometimes it is more important to play than to WIN – certainly at 10!!! – and generally more important to be kind than to be a winner.


The Coach was sacked immediately after the next match. But his team had won again.