Anyone that has ever coached a youth sport may recall starting off with great idealism.
The coaching emphasis was on learning the skills necessary to play the sport and to have fun. Young athletes practiced a variety of elements of the game and then part of the practice would be used to play the sport. Players were rotated into different positions where they got a sense of each position and every player got about the same amount of playing time.
Players also learn good sportsmanship and respect for teammates and opposing players and coaches. This kind of coaching puts the players well on their way to becoming as good a player as they can be and then something changes.
Consider the fable of the Scorpion and the Fox. As the fox approached the river, he encountered a Scorpion. The Scorpion asked the fox to give him a ride across the river. The fox replied that he could not give him a ride because he would bite the fox causing him to drown. The Scorpion told the fox that he would not bite him because if the fox drowned so would he. The fox considered the logic of the Scorpion’s reply and decided to let him ride across on his back. As the fox reached a mid point in the river he felt a sting in his back and knew that the Scorpion had stung him. The fox asked the Scorpion why had he taken an action that would kill them both and the Scorpion said, “You can not blame me for biting you as it is my nature to do so.”
Nobel prize winner James Watson said, “As humans, we are always trying to win in every situation. Scientists are trying to understand what our genes have programmed us to do. We should accept and not deny this reality, it is nearly impossible to overcome our self-focused nature.”
While I am not a Nobel Prize winner, I strongly disagree with Dr Watson’s premise that we cannot overcome the forces of self-interest and selfishness that lives in each of us.
Youth sport coaches want to win, players want to win and perhaps most powerfully, parents want their kids team to win.
Perhaps a better question might be, is winning at all costs acceptable. I believe that most of us are more like the fox than the scorpion although there definitely are scorpions among us.
As parents and fans, we can help coaches to do the right thing with young athletes. As parents and fans, notice when coaches do the right thing and let the coach know. As parents and fans focus on the fun of the game, young players trying their best to conquer their fear of failure and giving it their all is reason enough to enjoy the game.
As parents and fans, refrain from criticizing coaches or players in a losing game. Remember, these are young players learning the game so give them a chance to do so.
If you are connected in any way to youth sports, let your coach know that you appreciate that they approach coaching with a focus on learning the sport, everyone plays, fun is important and sportsmanship is held in high regard.
Coaches in youth sports that do not sacrifice their values to win at all costs will be teaching important life skills that their players will long remember well after their playing days are over.
Remember all kids count.
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