Youth Sports, Winning and Leadership

June 15, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

 I was so insecure in middle school and so ready to be done with high school I didn’t play organized sports when I was young.

Now, when I make a good jump shot, hit the green from 180 yards out or finish a triathlon, I have to tell myself, “Brian, you’re athletic”. At 51, I am still discovering that I have a lot of athletic skills and learning how to appreciate them – I always thought other people were athletic, not me. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand youth sports today.

First, what’s the point of youth sports? What are the guiding values and principles and the long-term benefit we hope the kids will get. I hope it’s to have fun, connect to peers and to their own bodies, and learn skills that will help them in life. I don’t hear much about values from coaches, they focus mostly on the game and winning, I don’t hear a lot about much else. The parents either keep these coaches in their jobs or they are the coaches.


I guess I am really confused as to why it’s good to get on a team that travels. Are there not enough kids to get a game up in a town the size of Denver? Why do we need to travel to Canada, Florida or California to play? I am convinced tourist boards and the travel industry have conspired with the club teams on this one.

When was the last time you saw a pick-up game of baseball or basketball? I would love to see a group of k fourteen year-olds try to use the communication, organizational and collaborative skills needed to do this. I don’t think we will ever see it because some helicopter parent would track his kid down, set up a Face book Group and organize the thing before the kids got to the baseball diamond.

I get the feeling some days that in every town there are group of parents of 20 or so naturally talented athletes who get together to decide how their kids will get noticed by Stanford scouts. These parents need other kids so their kid can play so they use youth sports organizations to invite another 1,000 or so athletes to fill out teams. Youth sports clubs and camps promotes the top players and offer lots of ways “your child, can be a superstar too.” It seems like the average kid plays less and less and studs play more and more. If it were a pick up game everyone would play the same amount.

I need some help from some of you superstar jocks. What does it mean when one team is crushing another 150 to 2 and the winning team is cheering and fist pumping and going for every point they can get? I was at a girls lacrosse game this week and the winning team was up by 20 points and after they scored they cranked on a boom box that played the pump-you-up music you hear at a Nuggets home game when they get the ball and are trailing the other team. What are the coaches teaching these athletically talented kids? Not humility. I kept wondering what the parents of these kids were like? Then I noticed that they were fist-pumping too and getting upset at a call the ref made against their team and were criticizing their kids if they dropped the ball – your team is winning by 20 points, hello.

Is the point of youth sports to get the kids into college on sports scholarships? So it’s a money issue? Sports programs for colleges is a huge money issue. Then what’s the gold at the end of that rainbow? You graduate college having played D1 basketball then what? You derail in your first job because you don’t know how to loose or can’t do the equivalent of organizing a pick-up game? Why are we doing this again?

What’s your relationship to winning? Is it everything, the only thing, a sign of competence, worth, acceptance?

For thousands of years, native cultures across the globe initiated their young boys to teach them how to handle winning and power. To not let power and natural talent go to their heads when they became men. They knew this had to be done because uninitiated men became savages.

Today, we have youth sports.

What am I missing?

Filed in: Leadership

About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book "The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don't"

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