Although competition is a healthy and necessary part of youth sports, there is one very important fact that many parents, players, and coaches seem to forget: it should stay on the field–or court, or pool or green, or mat.
Some people are competitive by nature–I get that, I live with four of them–but that does not mean that you or your child must look at everything as if it were a competition. That type of thinking leads to an us vs. them mentality, which eventually leads to conflict.
- You vs. the coach
- Your child vs. the coach
- Your child vs. another teammate
- You vs. another parent
This us vs. them mentality divides teams, families, and friends. It is not what youth sports should be about and here’s a few suggestions to keep it at bay:
Focus on your child’s effort and performance
Acknowledge what he has done right, encourage him to fix mistakes, and reinforce his effort and hard work. Don’t turn that focus on how bad the officials were, how obnoxious the other coaches or parents were, or how a fellow teammate messed up in his job.
Reverse the whining
When your child wants to whine–or you or your spouse do–about “the unfairness of it all,” it’s time to change your whining into evaluation. Did I do my best? What could I have done better or differently? Parents and and players have a bad habit of dwelling on what went wrong instead of what can I do to make it right?
Remember the real competition
The real competition is not against other players on your team; that destroys any hope for a unified team. The real competition is not a personal vendetta against players on the other team. For parents, the real competition is not against the coach: I’m right, you’re wrong and you need to play my kid more! Neither is the real competition against the officials; they are doing the job the best that they can. The real competition is kids learning to play their best and seeing improvements in their performance. The real competition is kids learning to accept losing graciously and winning humbly. The real competition is recognizing good plays from everyone, even the opposing team.
The Ultimate Victory
The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give. -Howard Cosell
That is the type of competition that begins and ends in the game. That is the kind of competition that will keep your child striving to do his best, no matter the score, no matter the circumstances, and no matter who’s coaching. As always, a great character trait that your child can take into life after sports.