So I pose a question today on a subject that has become sort of a lightning rod when it comes to youth sports.

At what age and at what level should winning be the priority? At the same time I guess you could ask should winning ever be the priority.

Those questions present a real dilemma as in one corner you have those who think everyone should get a trophy while in the other is the group who believes it’s never too early to emphasize the difference between winning and losing.

When our children first started playing soccer, basketball, tee-ball and other sports 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 you though would last a lifetime.

We insisted that the priority at that age was for our children to learn the basic fundamentals and rules, how to get along with others and most of all have FUN.  Now it seems more than ever that goes out the window pretty quickly, especially for parents who believe their son or daughter has more talent than their teammates.

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 parents on his own team.  They want to win and if that means “little Mike or Mary” 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 and 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, traveling, fundraising and of course winning, winning and winning.

Those videos you used to watch which brought smiles, laughter and even tears are now tools to show your kids that they are doing wrong.

What’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to all of this?  I guess it’s up to each parent to decide what they want their child to get out of youth sports.  Of course the child should have some say in the matter because not everyone has what it takes to be a champion. Some are just fine with a participation trophy.

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