The opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which are being held in London this year, are slated for Friday, July 27 2012. For not even a month, the world’s best athletes will be representing their respective nations in every kind of sport from handball and archery to sailing and gymnastics. It’s safe to say that for most of these competitors the Olympics are the pinnacle of their athletic career and everyone will be going for the gold. But even the Olympics, arguably the greatest demonstration of athletic talent in the world, are still called the Olympic Games.
Why does it matter if the Olympics are also called the Olympic Games and what does that have to do with youth sports?
Think about it for a second—the Olympics are the highest pressured event any athlete could ever face. The whole world literally is watching and waiting to see who succeeds and who comes up short. What sporting event could possibly be less game-like? After all, a game is supposed to be fun, right? But every single Olympian that competes in the 2012 Summer Games began their sports career playing a game in youth sports organization. Someone had to teach Michael Phelps how to swim; Shawn Johnson how to do a somersault; Misty May-Treanor how to bump, set, spike—and chances are it was someone in a youth sports organization.
It’s probably safe to assume that most Olympians didn’t show up to their first horseback riding lesson (equestrian) or the first day of basketball camp with dreams of being an Olympic athlete, becoming a national hero or a spokesman for Subway. They came to have fun with their friends, have fun and play a game! (And maybe because Mom and Dad pushed them a little to at least give it a try).
Too often youth sports parents and coaches forget that for many young players, youth sports are really still just a game. As players get older and join high-powered travel or high school teams sports takes on a more serious tone, but why does every youth sports game need to be a life or death situation? While there is nothing wrong with being competitive and wanting to win (after all, no one like losing) it’s important to remember that youth sports should be about learning and having fun, not winning at all costs. Chances are many (if not all) of the Olympians this summer wouldn’t still be playing the sport they started when they were little if it wasn’t still a little bit fun!
Just remember, if we can call the Olympics a “game,” there is no reason youth sports shouldn’t be!