Winning and losing in youth sports
Posted on 04/24/2007 in misc
Shannon has stirred the pot with her post extolling the virtues of going for the win in youth sports.
Winning is more fun than losing. Even the most hardened anti-competitive socialist will probably agree to that. However, in youth team sports, no single kid really has much control over the final outcome of the game. (Dominant pitchers being an exception.) If the coach focuses on the outcome, he sucks the joy of playing right out of the game. If winning really matters, how much fun can the left fielder have in a loss if he never even sees the ball on defense and gets 2 at bats during the game? The coach should focus on teaching the fundamentals of the game. Winning baseball, basketball, or even in business is done by executing the little things properly. The victories to be celebrated in youth sports are not the final outcomes, but the gradual day-to-day improvement that leads to those victories. Little Johnny can't control the final score, but he can control what he does when at bat or on the field. If the kids get better as both individual players and as a team after every game and practice, they'll usually win more than they lose anyway.
I've seen Little League teams with two dominant pitchers that threw complete game shutouts every game. The rest of the kids were miserable because they knew they didn't really matter. The coach didn't care if they got better as players, because his two pitchers virtually guaranteed the league championship. Have fun and get better each practice and game are the only goals a youth sports coach should care about.
Of course, even if you do everything perfectly, you still don't always win. That is a lesson that kids should get from sports.
It's been my experience in over a dozen seasons of youth baseball and basketball that the parents care far more about the final score than the kids. Even when I've had kids crying after a close loss, two minutes later they were over it and were far more concerned with the contents of the snack cooler.