We’ve talked before about how competition is not a dirty word, and when you compete for something there is usually a winner and a loser. Whether or not there is an official keeping score, most kids know if the other team has scored more points/goals/touchdowns than them and most kids don’t want to be on the losing end! We could launch into a whole other debate about whether youth sports programs should keep score or league standings but we at SportsSignup feel it’s important that sports parents, coaches, and the athletes themselves know that it’s okay to want to win!
It feels good to win something, there is no denying that. Be it in sports, at school, family game night or wherever there’s a little friendly competition going on, everyone wants to be the winner. We would argue that winning a tight game where both teams/players are evenly matched is even more satisfying; when you have to work hard for something it usually means a lot more! Wanting to win, to be the best at something, is a completely acceptable attitude. Wanting to be the best pushes us to try our hardest, to put in a few extra practice hours, to make sure we hold nothing back when the time comes—these are all positive attitudes to have…provided you don’t go overboard with it.
The National Youth Sports Coaches Associations position on “winning” states:
When it comes to youth sports, winning is an important component of the whole process. Both players and teams are obligated to play to win since that is the essence of competition. The problem with winning is when it starts to compromise more important ideals. When winning becomes the only objective, all of the other values of youth sports participation are lost.
As NAYS points out, playing to win is part of competing. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be competitive and to win. But winning is not the only reason we sign our kids up for football, basketball, or tennis. There are so many other life lessons to learn from playing sports that, unless we as parents and coaches are careful, winning will become the end-all-be-all goal and purpose of sports. Yes, we want to win but we should also use youth sports as a platform to teach teamwork, commitment, responsibility, and more. After all, all of those attributes are what allow us to win. A quarterback can’t win a football game by himself, right? He needs a teammate to pass to. And it’s hard to win at an individual sport like tennis if you only come to half of your scheduled practice sessions, right? You can’t count on a teammate to pick up the slack or give you a place to hide out, so if you want to win it’s up to you!
Even simple playground games like tag and hide-and-go-seek have winners and losers. Wanting to win and trying to win is perfectly normal. But when wanting to win is the only reason you get involved in something you’re missing out on the bigger picture. There is nothing wrong with teaching our kids the positive things that come with competition and winning, but it’s important we don’t get so carried away with winning that it becomes the only thing that matters. So many kids quit youth sports by the time they are 13 and many hypothesize that the extreme pressure to win might be contributing to that. Let’s play to win but remember it’s still play!