Very few things get youth sports coaches and parents more heated than the Great Youth Sports Debate—should every player be treated like a winner? Some argue that teaching young players that everyone is a winner undermines the efforts of the kids who work extra hard to achieve and excel and actually deserve to be recognized for their efforts. Others say that there is too much pressure placed on youth athletes to win at all costs and that’s not what youth sports is about. What do you think?
Above all else, youth sports are supposed to be fun. At the end of the day it’s just a game! Too many sports parents and coaches are putting way too much pressure on their 8 year old to become a soccer dynamo—high powered travel teams, private lessons, specialization at an early age—it’s all too much for a little kid. And parents are getting too wrapped up in their child’s athletic career. Of course you want your youth athlete to be successful, but just because they aren’t an amazing athlete that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of them for what they did over the course of the season.
There are going to be plenty of times in the future where things don’t work out, so why not celebrate the small victories now? It makes kids good to feel like they were part of a team, even if they weren’t the superstar player. This can help build up their confidence. Trophies and medals are a way of telling them good job!
Youth sports teams are the perfect opportunity to teach kids that not everyone can win at everything every time. This is not a life or death situation so it’s the perfect time for a child to learn how to bounce back from disappointment. Much further down the road in their lives there are going to be awards they won’t win, tests they won’t pass, jobs/raises/promotions they won’t get and so forth. Learning how to NOT be a sore loser now, and how to grow and move on from a loss, will help them recover from more serious losses down the road.
Current sporting policies that allow every kid to get a trophy or medal just for participating and not actually excelling are over-indulging our youth athlete’s egos by making them believe they are better than they really are. There is nothing wrong with encouraging a child’s confidence in themselves and telling them they can do anything they want as long as they try hard, but by treating everyone the same you are actually undermining the kids that are pushing themselves, giving 110% and doing a truly exceptional job.
What do you think? Should everyone be a winner in youth sports?