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The game ended with a 16-2 loss for my team of nine-year olds. In our team huddle after the game I asked each player to name something good that happened for them personally during the game. After some brief thought, we went around the circle, one by one: “I made a diving catch on a fly ball; I finally got a hit; I struck out three batters; I stole a base; I made an error, but I didn’t let it get me down; I helped turn a double play.” By the time we got to the last player, the air was so positive you would think we had won the game!
Then, I had a meeting with the parents which had already been planned before the game about scheduling practices, etc. As I walked and got closer to where all the parents were waiting, I could hear them still talking about the game in disgust: “The umpires were the worst ever; these kids gotta learn to swing the bat; you can’t just walk everybody, you’ve gotta throw strikes; our players need to give a better effort; the coaches don’t know how to win! I stopped for a moment and took a good look at these parents. And then, I looked down the left field baseline. My nine-year-olds were playing leap frog—having a blast! The sting of the big loss moments ago was a distant memory for them—but I’m guessing some of the kids had to relive it on the car ride home.
The wins and losses of youth sports are futureless, but staying positive through it all has benefits for a lifetime.
If we only focus on our win and loss record, it’s very easy to forget the real purpose of youth sports: To become better people through competition. Teaching kids to respond to failure in a positive way is what opens their mind to solutions instead of getting caught up in the quagmire of making excuses. Staying positive is the key to success in sports, and in life.
But for many, it’s naturally easier to be negative than it is to be positive when things aren’t going their way. Making a snide remark about an umpire, second-guessing a coach or saying something unflattering about another player is often how it starts. Before long, being negative becomes “their way.” Unfortunately, this “negative way” is bound to show up in other, very important areas of their life as well and produces negative consequences. The truth is, as others become aware of a person’s undesirable negative behavior, opportunities have a way of disappearing fast.
In the big picture, the wins and losses of youth sports mean nothing for a kid’s future if negativity has fueled the process. But if kids have been taught to remain positive at all times, what it means for their future is priceless. It means they will have been taught to overcome adversity with a positive attitude and it is the very definition of a winner!
When parents choose to take a positive approach in youth sports, it’s almost impossible for their child not to have fun.
Kids want to play sports because they believe it’s going to be fun. They’re not signing up because they see it as a way to become a Division I college athlete or a professional. But when the conversation with young children always has a way of turning toward future long term goals such as a college scholarship, kids know that their goal of having fun is going to be compromised by unrealistic expectations to produce results that can advance them toward some big reward in the future. But whose reward is it?
The kids have it right. By staying in the moment and enjoying the process, not only will they experience meaningful improvement, but they will learn the life lessons youth sports have to offer. This is their reward. It’s the parent’s role to encourage their kids to always give a good effort with a good attitude, not to be their sports agent.
Staying positive will allow for growth to happen; being negative will sap the very life out of it.
Chuck Schumacher is the author of “How to Play Baseball: A Parents Role in Their Child’s Journey,” available at www.chuckschumacher.com (signed copy) or Amazon. Chuck has 20 years experience as a youth baseball coach and 40 years experience in martial arts. He is also a NASM certified personal trainer. In 2006, he opened Chuck’s Gym in Franklin, Tenn., where he teaches baseball and Okinawan karate. You can contact Chuck at email@example.com.