Youth sports – a fine line between lesson and obsession

Another game, another loss. My son’s hockey team is 15 games into the season and they have not tasted victory.

I know, sports is not all about winning but unless we flip our culture on its’ head, winning is still an important factor in relation to the fun quotient in youth sports. From a very early age in youth sports, despite some well-intentioned policies such as not keeping score, kids understand what the goal is in team sports. And that goal is to score more than the other team.

So back to my son’s hockey team and their miserable slump. How does a parent balance the primary importance of their child just having fun with the underlying desire to win? Let’s cut the crap so to speak. We all know (well at least those of us who have played sports know) that there is an undeniable connection between your level of enjoyment and whether you were successful. With this knowledge, as a parent how can we respect ourselves and our children by peddling the same old cliches such as “just as long as you are having fun” when your child is experiencing loss after loss?

My take is different and it may not be popular with some of the more kinder, gentler parent-types. While winning at all costs may not be healthy concept, “as long as you are having fun” is just as unhealthy mentally for children. Why can we not have a middle ground with regard to the importance of winning? Why can’t it be “I hope you are having fun – do you think it would be even more fun if you won?”

I believe the game is usually more fun when attached to success. The lesson is that your child should strive to win each and every time knowing full well that losing is still a possible outcome.

We focus so much on the importance of lessons learned when our children lose in sport and for the most part I agree with this focus. However, there is one thing that losing cannot teach our children. It cannot instill the feeling of joy and camaraderie they will experience when they win as a team. That feeling is exclusive to winning in team sports.

When I look back at my best memories from my days in competitive sports most are attached to a team success. Yes we learn lessons from losing but sometimes those lessons still taste sour. Winning usually always tastes sweet.


Postscript: Drake’s team registered their first victory of the season on the weekend. Nothing could be more important than the win but the fact that Drake netted the game-winning goal late in the third period made it even sweeter for him. I hope the win is the first of many more for the team.

Author: One Dad With A Blog

I am just a single dad navigating the often rough waters of fatherhood. I live and breathe for my children but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion (or a sense of humour!)

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