Meaningful athletic competitions happen between teams that are closely matched in skill and effort and result in both teams improving because of the contest. Each team is challenged to perform at their best throughout the entire game in order to achieve process success as well as result success. Most of these types of games involve intense play with a close final score in which the participants have a sense of accomplishment by simply participating in the heated match. This is the type of environment that develops both mental and physical strength for the participants and enhances passion for competition.
Unfortunately, too often in youth and high school athletics, the match-ups are lopsided and very little fun or development occurs. Beating an opponent in a lopsided manner such as 9-0 in soccer, 56-0 in football, or 30-1 in baseball has little benefit for the winning or losing team. The winning team is happy, yet unfulfilled and the losing team loses drive and passion for the sport. When the game becomes meaningless, nobody wins. Sometimes, family members of the participants and the coaches on the winning side are excited by these score lines…unfortunately for the unchallenged participants it provides far less meaning.
If individual and team development, fun, and learning are the driving forces behind youth sport participation, each interaction on the playing field must be meaningful. Waisting a session or game through poor planning or scheduling simply limits the potential for each athlete.
Youth and high school sports are not college or professional sports. In collegiate sports, teams schedule easier opponents during the season to build confidence, get an easy win against a “cupcake”, or to have the opponent accept a large payday for the demoralizing loss. The purpose here is not player growth and development, but is financially and win/loss record driven. In professional athletics, winning championships trumps development which encourages success to be measured using different metrics. When success is defined by winning and losing, beating a team by a large number of points is the goal.
Why do coaches keep tract of wins and losses? Measuring total of meaningful games played or individual future successes for the team participants are dramatically more important than a general statistic such as wins and losses. Taking part in an event that encourages development by providing a challenge for the participants of both teams (including coaches) must be more meaningful than a lopsided win. Change your scheduling model today to create more growth opportunities for yourself and the players you coach.
How can you guarantee that each on field interaction including game day is meaningful. A few tips follow:
- Schedule games that you know will be tough to create growth opportunities for participants.
- Have a complete understanding of the level of your team and where you would fit in if playing in a tournament or league that has multiple skill levels.
- Challenge players during every training and game to improve. Setting high standards increases actual performance.
- Promote the process of development over the result of the game.
- Eliminate the word lose and instead use the word learn. Grow from defeat and push towards future successes.
Within the developmental model of sports that features game play, seek out challenging competition for your team. These meaningful experiences on the athletic field will be fantastic opportunities for on field growth as well as personal development off the field.
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