Monday, January 26, 2015

What's the point of youth sports?


A black belt instructor and international competitor who I really admire wrote on her Facebook page,

I feel sorry for those athletes and parents who have nothing in their lives but sports and the desire to win.

I completely agree and I was discussing this exact point yesterday with someone, let’s say their name was Bob, because it wasn’t and the sport was the McCluskey, North Dakota pee-wee rugby, because it wasn’t that either.

Bob was upset because his team wasn’t winning and he fumed,

No one can train with a coach who isn’t an expert. Why can’t you support my position?

I told him with my usual sweetness and diplomacy,

“I’m sorry but I can’t vote for your motion on the grounds that it’s a stupid idea. “

First of all, I have trained under plenty of coaches who were not experts and a couple who were complete morons. It’s up to you to get better. It’s you out there on the field or mat or in the ring.

What’s the point of youth sports?

No one cares who wins the North Dakota pee-wee rugby state championships except for the people who competed in it. Half of them don’t care either and the ones who do will have completely forgotten about it two years later. I won hundreds of local tournaments in my life and I remember almost nothing about any of them.

The value in amateur sports is much more than getting in better shape and learning some skills handling a ball, throwing a punch or applying an arm bar.

One thing you should learn is to persevere in the fact of difficulty. A second is to make accommodations to overcome obstacles, to man-up, woman-up and suck it up when things don't go your way. A third is to develop independence. A fourth is work ethic.

Here is what you do if you are on the McClusky pee-wee team, you get up, go to practice, work as hard as you can and try to get better.

Another thing you hopefully gain is a realistic perspective on your abilities. Unfortunately, the opposite often happens. As I helpfully explained to Bob,







Contrary to your belief, the entire team of the New Zealand All Blacks is not currently engaged in a fist fight over who gets to have the privilege of coaching the McClusky pee-wee rugby club. You have a coach who shows up to practice faithfully, is not falling down drunk and makes your players work out, so just hush.

But I can hear Bob now,

Oh, no, how can you say that! The McClusky Pee-wee Rugby club has potential to be the greatest rugby team that ever walked the face of the earth.

If that is so, when it occurs, I am sure they will get better coaching.  For now, though, all I see is a bunch of whiners who have missed the point of youth sports.

Fact check and disclaimer: There is in fact a place named McClusky, which a woman from there I met last night explained, "is located in the geographic center of North Dakota, which makes it literally the middle of nowhere."  There is in fact a sport called rugby and it is asserted by people who edit wikipedia that the New Zealand All Blacks are the greatest team in the world. I do not know whether McClusky in fact has a peewee rugby team and a resident named Bob, nor do I care.

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3 comments:

LanceW said...

Hi Lance here, I can confirm that yes the All Blacks are all powerful gods of the Rugby pitch, it must be true it says so on the internet. :-)

More seriously, just showing up to train puts you in a small elite group. Showing up to coach week in, week out puts people in a smaller more elite group.

The person who coaches the small town club for 40 years is a superstar.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I agree. I coach at Gompers with three other instructors. Anyone who coaches for decades must have the patience of a saint and the Prozac supply of Walgreen's

Kevin Joubert said...

"One thing you should learn is to persevere in the fact of difficulty. A second is to make accommodations to overcome obstacles, to man-up, woman-up and suck it up when things don't go your way. A third is to develop independence. A fourth is work ethic."

I agree. Unfortunately, my experiences with youth coaches have been that they are more concerned with winning than teaching. I say this as someone who would not now or has ever met anyone's definition of an athlete... but I believe that every play, every down, every match or move is valid competition. Winning the game is a valid goal, but it should be by product of learning and the competition that occurs in each moment... not the end that justifies the means.