Tournaments or Friendlies?

Over the first few weeks of the season my team has played in two events. The first was a tournament put on by our club and the second was billed as a ‘Friendlies’. In both cases we played two games a day on Saturday and Sunday. I could, and probably will, do a post that talks about playing this many games over such a short period of time. But that’s not the topic I want to discuss today.

Does it really matter if the event is called a tournament or Friendlies? The idea of Friendlies, as I understand it, is to take the emphasis off of winning and losing so that the players will just focus on playing well without the pressure of results. Tournaments, so the detractors say, make the game all about winning and not about development. My belief is the event itself is not good or bad, it all comes down to the approach of the coach and players.

Anyone playing a game of anything wants to win. The more competitive the player is the harder they will work to win. The size of the prize will also add motivation for some people. I don’t know of any soccer player that goes into a game and says to themselves, “I just want to get better today.” Players play to win so it doesn’t matter if the game is a scrimmage, league game, friendly or tournament.

Coaches can come to a game with a number of different agendas. They can decide to play their strongest players for most of the game in an effort to get the best result. Conversely, they can give the second tier players a chance to start and play more than usual in an effort to help them improve. The tactics a coach emphasises also has a huge impact on whether the players will be “used” purely to get a result or if they will be encouraged to play in a way that is conducive to player development.

So my feeling is that it doesn’t really matter if the event is labeled as a tournament or a friendly. The most important determining factor of whether an event is beneficial to the players is the approach of the coach. I think that every players should do their best to win and every youth coach should encourage their team to play in a way that will help them improve and prepare for the next level whether that is a moving from recreational to premier or from premier to high school and college.

My players will tell you that there is one big difference between tournaments and friendlies that I’ve failed mention; there are no trophies for ‘winning’ a ‘friendly’ event.

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