We sports fans.
We pay for ticket.
We watch game.
We support team.
We go home sad with loss/happy with win.
We really are simpletons, aren’t we? Our entire existence as sports fans has conditioned our emotional response to be so binary as to hinge on a result that can only be one of two things. A win or a loss. Even a draw — which should, in theory, elicit its own unique response — is compartmentalized in our brains as either a good or bad result. Points won or points lost. This aspect of fandom is necessary if we are to truly feel the primal emotion of sport. It’s us vs. them, our tribe vs. theirs. Only one of us will survive. The fulcrum on which the win or loss teeters feeds us with adrenaline that fuels the passion we have for our teams.
Atlanta United 2, Atlanta United’s USL affiliate, is going to present us a new way to watch and support a team. Why? Because ATL UTD 2’s priority is not to go out and win games. The purpose and the reason this team exists is to support the first team. That means developing players that can one day wear the crest with the “A.”
Will Parchman hit on this concept in a twitter thread in which he described the way in which for USBNT coach Hugo Perez taught his teams to play, despite losing in the process. Please read this thread.
I want to tell you a story about the U15 BNT in 2013 and Hugo Perez and why everyone loved him so much and why his expulsion from US Soccer was such a shameful exercise in misplaced priorities.— Will Parchman (@WillParchman) January 18, 2018
Parchman describes a time when he watched Perez’s team lose handily, 4-1 against physically superior opposition (which at the early-teenage level is a significant disadvantage). But despite the score, Perez was happy. Why?
Youth soccer and developmental teams like ATL UTD 2 are about improvement. The players who play for ATL UTD 2 will be put in uncomfortable situations by their coach, Scott Donnelly. They will not become better players if they only do what they’re good at, what they’re comfortable with. They become better players by putting them under stress and forcing the players to improve on their weaknesses. Pressure turns coal into diamonds, after all.
It’s important to understand this concept for your own sanity. If the team is losing, the sky is not falling. The players are not failures. The results, as weird as this may seem, don’t matter.
In a press release introducing Donnelly as the team’s head coach, he said, “I am confident [ATL UTD 2] can play an integral role in the club’s overall pyramid and provide a platform for our young players to perform and develop while supporting the First Team. As the bridge between the Academy and the First Team, our goals will be to not only prepare and push our players, but also to put together a strong team that represents this club and the fans of Atlanta United.”
Nowhere in his statement does Donnelly talk about winning games or winning championships. Winning is not important. So why should we care about this team? Why should we pay money for tickets to watch them play? There are tons of reasons. The team is chock full of talent — young talent. And not just any young talent, our young talent — players that have grown up playing in Powder Springs and Locust Grove and Dekalb. Players from our own neighborhoods. That is cool, and it’s more than enough of a reason to feel invested in the players and the team.