In the world of youth sports there seems to be an increasingly heated debate amongst sports parents and coaches about the “right” level of competition. Some sports organizations are banning score keeping and league standings in an effort to promote equal playing time and individual player development. Meanwhile, others argue that handing out participation trophies to everyone is contributing to the “wussification” of America. Dennis Chighisola, hockey writer and video producer over at CoachChic.com made this great point on LinkedIn a few weeks ago;
I don’t think a game is a game unless there’s something at stake — I mean, what’s the fun of playing chess, checkers or Monopoly if there’s not aim to the game? I’ll even go so far as to say that I’ve found the need to add competition to drills in order to get players to try harder (I also see the kids mostly having a blast because there is something to strive for).
If you get my gist, I really believe keeping score during games (of any sort) is healthy and necessary. What needs to be done is to find ways to encourage coaches to teach better during most of their time with young ones.
We here at SportsSignup tend to believe that competition can be a very healthy thing in youth sports, provided it doesn’t push parents, players, and coaches over the edge. For instance, it’s never okay for a coach or parent to get physical with someone else during a game because they disagree with a call. Recently, a Utah soccer player killed a referee after being fouled! It is never acceptable to lay your hands on someone else during a sports match, no matter how hyped up or competitive you may be. Nor is it okay for coaches or players to belittle and demean other players or their teammates during practices. There is a fine, but hard, line between bullying someone into performing and pushing them to succeed. Yes, we want our teams to win and our players to give it their all but competition shouldn’t turn us into the worst versions of ourselves, where we will do anything to win.
However, a little bit of friendly and healthy competition can inspire players to push themselves a little bit harder during the season and grow more as youth athletes. As Dennis pointed out, most games have an element of competition to them. Even the simplest of board games like Candy Land have a winner, right? Then there are more advanced board games like Risk where the whole point is to completely destroy your competition and take over the world! There is no real “prize” for winning a board game, except maybe bragging rights at the next family game night, but we all still would like to win.
And coaches, think about when you’ve turned boring drills like relay tosses or sprints into a game during practice. Chances are you’ve noticed the kids have paid better attention and hustled a bit more, right? Again, they aren’t really winning anything tangible but that in-team competition gives them an extra boost.
There is nothing wrong with being competitive, and “competition” isn’t inherently a dirty words. It only becomes a problem when parents, coaches, and players care more about winning at all costs that competition can turn ugly. Of course we all want to win and we want to see our child’s sports team come out on top but remember that being competitive isn’t just about winning, it’s about always striving to be your own best (not necessarily THE best) and push yourself to grow and excel.