I’m not saying that I’m old, but my childhood was nothing like the landscape happening today in youth sports. I grew up in an era where I had to try out for the teams that I wanted to play on in high school. In middle school, not everyone made the team. The skill requirements were a bit more relaxed, but in middle school, you still had to show up to be evaluated and that wasn’t a guarantee to make the squad. In T-ball, there was a winner when I was a kid. There was no such thing as a coach getting fired because his team ran up the score, at any level, in any sport. The simple fact that a child receives a participation ribbon for a team that finishes in last place is why we’re raising future failures.
Truth be told, I come from a family of coaches and athletes. I looked up to my big brother because he was the star of his conference winning high school football team. He was the epitome of cool because he was an integral part of the success of the team at the biggest high school in town. The thought of him accepting losing as long as he showed good sportsmanship is unfathomable. He played to win because he practiced to win. Losing wasn’t an option, not in sports, not in life. You either won the trophy, or you spent the offseason working harder so you did. I hate that in today’s ultra sensitive leave no kid behind mentality, that our youth are being raised by playing sports in an environment where score isn’t kept and everyone is a winner. We are setting them up to fail.
So here’s the thing, sometimes when you lose, it means you’re winning. Character is created when you or your team come up just short. Through sports, perseverance is not learned in victory, it is reinforced in defeat. The skills learned through sports as a kid are an integral part of your future success in life. In experiencing the effects of defeat, you are training your character for the benefits of victory. It’s imperative that we teach our youth how to deal with defeat. There are benefits laced in the rejection of a child not making the team they’ve tried out for. The state of youth sports now is only helping to cultivate the types of kids that we are seeing going into adulthood today (read my rant regarding that in detail here). Adult life is about winning and losing and how capable oneself is in handling both. By teaching adolescents that everyone makes the team and everyone’s a winner, we are stripping them of the skills to handle defeat they are guaranteed to experience as an adult. Let them lose, let them get cut. It teaches them how to persevere. It teaches them that sometimes when you lose, you’re winning.