Taking the joy out of youth sports
At what age and at what level should winning be the priority when it comes to sports?
That question presents a real dilemma today as in one corner you have those who think everyone should get a trophy while in the other there are those who believe it’s never too early to emphasize the difference between winning and losing.
When our children first started playing youth soccer, basketball or even tee-ball as 5 and 6 year olds we celebrated the smallest signs of achievement.Scoring that first goal or making that first basket while we were taking videos was truly one of those moments we thought would last a lifetime. We insisted that the priority at that age was for them to learn the basic fundamentals and rules, how to get along with others and most of all have FUN.
Now more than ever that often goes out the window pretty quickly, especially for parents who believe their son or daughter has more talent than others on the team. Soon, just playing the game is not good enough and the coach who stresses that everyone participates equally regardless of the score comes under fire from the parents on his own team. They want to win and if that means “little Johnny or Jill” play the entire game because they are the best players while others only get a couple of minutes then so be it. After all, the kids are now 8 years old. This is no longer baby stuff.
Before long the better players gravitate to select, travel and AAU teams and the goals and desires become larger. Pursuing local, state and even national championships, practicing and playing 12 months a year and focusing on only one sport. Seeking better coaching and training. Fundraising. Traveling. And of course winning, winning and winning.
Those videos you used to watch which brought smiles,laugher and even tears are now tools to show your kids what they are doing wrong.
Eventually it’s off to high school sports where the parents have now become experts from years and years of watching.They have no problem second-guessing every move that coach makes and can’t understand why the team doesn’t win championships on a regular basis. They also feel their child is certainly good enough to earn a college scholarship and have a hard time accepting the fact that the offers from big-time schools are not pouring in.
This is the circle and cycle of sports today and it’s often not very pretty.