Spoiling Their Fun

By September 20, 2013 No Comments

In past blogs I’ve discussed and mentioned concerning issues with youth sports in America. Youth sports are supposed to be fun but sadly that’s not always the case. This week I’m going to discuss a few of the key issues involving youth sports and the one thing I think is the driving force behind them.

Sports are supposed to be a fun experience for all. Too often we are hearing stories of neglect, abuse, and misguided practices taking place in youth sports. More and more kids are not having fun because of the adults involved. It’s a shame and more attention needs to be brought to it.

Recently a group called Citizenship Sports Alliance conducted research and came out with a national report card on the state of youth sports. The group primarily studied youth sport programs involving athletes ages 6-14.  The report card issued low grades for parent behavior and coaching. One of the main issues the report cited is that there is too much emphasis given to the win-at-all cost mentality.  Too much emphasis is placed on winning alone in youth sports. Jim Thompson, chairman of the PCA (Positive Coaching Alliance) said, “We really hope that this will be a wake-up call.” Jim, I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve read, witnessed, and heard many stories involving youth sports where parents and coaches went too far just to win a game. Adults have spoiled the fun for kids. Before I give my opinion on the root cause of these issues, I want to state my stance with youth sports, winning, and competitive nature.

First and foremost, I believe sports should be fun at all levels, including varsity high school sports. Why play if it’s not fun? It’s the coach’s job to make it fun. Sports should teach and promote character; the kids can’t play forever. Athletes should learn valuable life lessons through athletics. I am very competitive. I want to win every time I take the field or court, and I want my athletes to have that same desire. But when we lose, we must keep the bigger picture in mind. I believe youth sports should focus on teaching athletes how to prepare, and foster a desire to win. They should promote sportsmanship; not a win at all cost mentality. Up until high school all athletes on a team should receive playing time. Once you get to high school playing time can vary depending on the level of play and skill. No matter what, all members of a team should get the opportunity to play in game situations throughout a season. Playing time should not be an issue in youth sports. It should be fun for all participants.

In my opinion the number one reason why we see problems with parents and coaches in youth sports comes down to one word: insecurity. I believe insecurity is the core issue for problematic parents and coaches. It could be from any number of reasons but they are so insecure with the thought of their child or team losing that they push to the extreme. I believe this is where win-at-all cost mentality stems from. For some reason, parents and coaches believe their self-worth is lessened if their child or team does not win. I’ve thought this for a long time as a player, official, spectator, and now coach. People want to be able to brag at work or in gatherings that their team won the game or title. Kids just want to have fun playing the game with their friends.

To me it seems like something is missing from that parent or coaches life. They live vicariously through their child and their team. I’ve witnessed parents yelling and trying to coach their child from the stands, only to embarrass them. I’ve seen coaches belittle players for making mistakes. Their inability to handle defeat and the insecurity that comes with it is the driving force for these actions. If insecurity weren’t an issue, parents and coaches would focus on the attitudes and efforts that their child and team displayed. They wouldn’t care who won at the end of the day as long as the proper preparation took place, a desire to perform well was present, and the best effort was given. Most importantly insecurity would not interfere with the level of fun had by the athletes.

There are a million more important things in the world than who won a 6th grade basketball game over the weekend. We (parents and coaches) need to start being role models and acting that way. Too often the kids are the role models in youth sports and it should be the adults. There are kids dying of terminal diseases every day. We should be happy and thankful our kids are fortunate enough to be able to play a game. And at the end of the day that’s all it is; a game.

We need to address the insecurity that drives the irresponsible behavior. It doesn’t make us any less of a parent or coach if our child’s team loses. Focus on having fun, fostering a desire to win and prepare, sportsmanship, and having character. Let’s make sure we are providing an opportunity for kids to have fun while participating in sports.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with me about insecurity?

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!