Who Cares Most About Winning in Youth Sports?

Who Cares Most About Winning in Youth Sports?

By David Benzel

There seems to be confusion in youth sports about who cares the most about winning a championship, and even about who should care the most – the coaches, the parents, or the kids. Let’s take a look at the possible motives and responses in each category.

The Ego-driven coach needs to win to feel good about himself/herself and views a loss as a personal verdict about his/her competency. This coach is more likely to look out the window to blame others.

The Growth-driven coach strives to create an environment in which athletes can do their best and have a chance at winning. This coach is more likely to look in the mirror to accept responsibility for any poor decisions.

The Parent-as-Agent needs a victory because it fits a master plan or vision of what he/she wants for the child’s bio. This parent is more likely to add pressure before competitions and show disappointment or even scold after a loss.

The Parent-as-Witness hopes for a positive experience for a child, which is defined by progress made and lessons learned, more than points scored. This parent is more likely to control the natural emotions that go along with winning and losing so as to show support no matter what happens.

The Ego-Driven Athlete strives against an opponent and needs a victory so he/she can feel good about themselves afterwards. This athlete is most likely to ride an emotional roller-coaster that rises and falls with wins and losses.

The Process-Driven Athlete strives for a victory, but does not connect self-worth with the outcome of any particular contest. This athlete does not like losing but is most likely to keep a healthy perspective about what’s being learned and how sport fits with other priorities like school.

The Participative/Social-Driven Athlete competes to be part of something fun and to belong to something bigger than self. This athlete is less likely to suffer very much emotionally after a loss, and enjoys the camaraderie of wins without getting a big head about it.

The degree to which one cares about winning a championship is not a reflection of one’s role, but more a reflection of one’s motives and perspective. Unmet needs drive behavior in coaches, parents, and athletes. Those unmet needs vary from person to person within each role, and it’s necessary for us to be accepting of the various levels of intensity people bring to a competition. Parents can’t “make” athletes care more, and it’s pretty tricky for coaches to “make” parents care less! Perhaps the moral of this story is for each of us to do three things:

  1. Choose our own approach
  2. Avoid imposing it on others
  3. Ask ourselves “How well does this work for me, and how does it affect others around me?”

The hope is that the highly intense and competitive ego-driven adult (parent or coach) might realize that their focus on the outcome – winning – is counter-productive to helping kids enjoy the journey.

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David Benzel is the Founder and Executive Director of Growing Champions for Life, Inc., which provides parents and coaches with practical tools & positive strategies for helping athletes reach their full potential while enjoying the youth sport experience. David is also the author of “From Chump to Champ – How Individuals Go From Good to Great” www.growingchampionsforlife.com