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STOP Paying for Goals


It’s not uncommon for parents to reward players monetarily for actions on the field, in order to give their player a little more motivation.  However, there are certain accomplishments that are actually WAY outside of their control, to the point that offering rewards for the accomplishment actually limits their ability to ever achieve it.

Paying for Goals Hurts

Rewarding players for goals only sets your child up for failure, destroying their confidence and hurting their relationship with their teammates.  If you’re currently doing this or have thought about it – STOP.

Consider that it took a field-wide effort of ten other players to give your player the opportunity to knock the ball into the goal.

Your player’s ability to score goals is 100% reliant on their TEAMMATES.  100%.  In other words, they have NO CONTROL over whether or not they score, as the opportunity to score lies is someone else’s ability – or willingness – to give them the ball.  In fact, if you want your child to score goals – and you have money to throw – you should probably throw it at your child’s teammates, for assists.

Rewarding a player for goals undermines team chemistry and limits the goal scoring ability of the entire TEAM, because your player will feel obligated to dribble when they should be passing, and take shots from incredible distances or bad angles which will almost never yield a positive result.

This is a team sport, and your team will only be successful if everyone buys into the strategy and concept.  If you want to reward your child for their efforts, consider rewarding them for:

  • Recovery
  • Slide-tackles
  • Back-heel passes
  • Assists
  • Going “through” the ball
  1. Recovery is the act of taking a defensive position, between the ball and your goal – no matter what position you’re playing.   In fact, quick recovery from an offensive position is a fast way to score goals, as winning it back will immediately put you in a position to score.
  2. Slide tackles are an art that is lost among the majority of youth players.  Sliding in, winning the ball and jumping up to pass or dribble away feels like winning a $100 scratch-off ticket.  It’s a feeling that will stay with you all day.  It’s also fun.
  3. Assists – There are NO goals without assists.  When keeping track of scoring leaders, the typical activity-tracking point system awards assists with 1 point and goals with 2 points.  2nd assists also get one point. David Beckham scored lots of goals, but had nearly twice as many assists, which made him twice as valuable as most goal scorers.
  4. Back-heel passes – The ultimate in misdirection is the back-heel pass.  When executed, it immediately disorients your opponent, and elevates the executors value.  The back-heel pass is performed by kicking the ball backward while running forward.  Teams with great chemistry will use this pass very often.  It’s hard to predict or anticipate, so players who’ve been playing together for a while can dominate possession with it.
  5. blue player going through the ballGoing “through” the ball – Many players lack aggression, so during 1v1 situations, they lean back and attempt to play ball with their feet, trying not to get knocked.  However, by leaning forward and running “through” the ball, the player actually curbs risk of injury, by becoming the aggressor and moving out of danger.  Instead of waiting for the ball to land at their feet, when the ball is in range to challenge for it, a player should run into the ball and take it off of whatever body part the ball comes into contact with (head, chest, stomach, thigh or foot).

By rewarding for behaviors instead of goals, players will improve their individual skills, without alienating themselves from their teammates.  And they won’t feel like they failed, if they don’t deliver.

The items listed above can add up quickly and make a DIRECT impact to the game, without putting all of the pressure of winning or losing on your athlete.


About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop confident, detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. It's important that players NOT be afraid of making mistakes, to encourage an appreciation of failure as a learning tool. This relates to life - not just soccer."


  1. Anne Marie Weber on

    Slide tackling… May be it’s fun but probably not in the way that you express here. The need for a slide tackle means that, for whatever reason, (you) the player is out of position.

    • Mike Slatton on

      “Out of position”? That’s wrong.

      The fields our kids play on are imperfect. The players are imperfect (on both teams). A slide tackle is a quick way to recover the ball when it has been stolen or intercepted by the other team. A well executed slide tackle comes in from the side and scoops the ball away from the opponent. Here is a good example: ,

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