Many youth sports programs are adopting a new and innovative way to encourage participation. They believe that our society is too focused on winning and losing. Instead, our youth sports should foster the love of the game. Experienced and developing players can play side by side, without the burden of a final score. The thought is this. Without winners and losers, the players and coaches can focus on honing the skills of the game.
What an innovation! Coaches are no longer yelling at kids, no longer yelling at the refs and no longer yelling at each other. Presumably the kids are happy, because they can frolic up and down the field without worrying about being in the right place or doing the right thing. Parents proudly place permanent placards on their Prius’, to promote their prodigious prodigies. These programs are great, because they make winners of anybody willing to fork over the $150 to join the league.
I get it. We want to protect our children from the harm of losing. We want to insulate them from the insult of not being good enough. We want them to love the game for the game itself. Essentially, we want to make all of them equal and shield them from the inequality that inevitably will find them. Sports should not have winners or losers. No one should win the Super Bowl!
Before we get rid of all the score boards, fire all the referees and decommission tryouts, we ought to think about the consequences of such actions. Not having winners and losers actually limits the growth of our children. Losing is not a character judgment, it is a reality. At some point in our lives, we will lose. Losing in little league starts the process of training our youth to manage failure. It is a part of the success pursuit process. It redirects the effort and adjusts the strategy. In that way, losing is not the opposite of winning. It is part of the process of winning. Likewise, winning reinforces behaviors that need to be repeated. Provided we are not teaching our kids to cheat, winning is typically a function of how hard we are willing to work.
Winning and losing should not define our character. They simply serve as benchmarks. They show us what we should and shouldn’t do. They create opportunities for improvement and guide our success pursuit. We should manage our wins and losses, not avoid them. We should strive to win the Super Bowl, because it affirms our hard work. Losing simply tells us where we can improve, where we can get better and what we have left to do. We sign our children up in these leagues, mostly because we want them to win. But maybe for them to improve, we have to allow them to lose.