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Half of All Teams are Going to Lose

Everyone wants to play on winning teams. Yet on any given day, half of all teams will lose or at best play to a tie. For parents of young athletes, dealing successfully with losses is a key factor that determines whether kids will continue playing sports past the current season. Before thinking about how to deal with losses, parents should consider the following questions to determine the differences between winning and losing teams.

  1. A team wins a game and afterwards a coach stands up and congratulates players on their hard work and accomplishments. When a team loses, what should a coach do?
  2. A team wins a game and afterwards parents congratulate their children on their efforts. When a team loses, what should parents do?
  3. A team wins a game and afterwards parents brag to family members about the play of their child. When a team loses, what should parents do?
  4. A team wins a game and afterwards parents thank the coach for his or her hard work and time. When a team loses, what should parents say?
  5. A team wins a game and afterwards parents encourage their children to try to better their performance. When a team loses, what should parents encourage?
  6. A team wins a game and everyone goes out afterwards and celebrates player accomplishments. When a team loses, what should everyone do?
  7. A team wins and the next practice is devoted to improving player skills. When a team loses, what should practices focus on?
  8. A team has a winning season and afterwards the entire team gets together to remember memorable moments. When a team has a losing season, what should the team do?
  9. A team has a winning season and afterwards players sign up to play again next year. When a team has a losing season, what should players do?
The correct answer to all of the above is "the same thing." Every game has a "scoring" outcome that is often determined by one player, one moment or one mistake. Every game also has a "fun" outcome. As parents on winning teams often know, these two things are not related. The coaches and players may control the "scoring" outcome, but parents do control the "fun" outcome. If games and the events that surround them are fun, players will want to play again. If these events are not fun, players will quit whether their team is winning or losing. Youth sports are not professional sports. Youth coaches seldom get fired midseason for poor records and players are rarely traded. This lets everyone focus on building better kids both during the game and in life. Though wins are important for statisticians, they only become critical to young athletes if parents forget why it is important for kids to play sports.

Friday, March 05, 2004