Every bit of research about child wellness and development seems to indicate that getting and keeping your children involved in extra curricular activities such as soccer, football, softball, baseball and lacrosse (as well as hosts of other activities) is the best way to raise healthy, happy, socially adept, and emotionally sound children.
In fact research from The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that ‘behavior learned in childhood influences adult behavior and youth involvement in sports instills healthy habits and behaviors,’ in kids. Another study out of the University of Michigan, shows that kids who play team sports and are involved in athletic activities score higher on standardized testing and have better grade point averages than kids that are not involved in sports. Bottom line, is that the sporting activities benefit children in numerous ways.
However, in recent years under the umbrella of political correctness, many sporting organizations are rethinking competition and some, are asking the question of whether scores should be kept in children’s sports. After all, if you eliminate the winning and losing factor of athletics, then every child has the ability to ‘feel good’ and confidence will abound, right? If every child receives a trophy, if sports are just about fun and not about winning or losing no child will ever feel they aren’t good enough. And certainly, this is the long sought out answer that will eliminate any sense of failure from our children’s lives, regurgitating the culture of equality without effort. Correct?
Not exactly! ‘
It’s one thing if you have a group of 4 and 5 year olds playing tee-ball who likely don’t know whether they are winning or losing. However, as time progresses children too, understand the difference between winning and losing. They see the difference between those that give 100% and those that just show up to play. And as with everything in life where there are distinct winners and losers children too acquire the desire to win. To succeed. To be their best. To try and practice harder. To excel. If you remove the reward for practicing and playing well (winning), you diminish the establishment of extra curricular sports.
This is yet another chapter in the new generation of children who are being treated so softly that no parent or adult would want to utter the words ‘You lost,’ at an audible level, lest you permanently damage the child’s psyche. The problem is that if children don’t develop the skill to excel, to work hard, and get to see their efforts pay off through winning they won’t feel inclined in other areas of their life to work hard. And as you know, as every parent knows when they grow up in the real world, many things are about winning and losing. There are winners and losers. Adults don’t just show up for work or life hoping for a consolation prize. One of the most beneficial lessons of athletic competition is that it teaches children to not just rest on their laurels. Sports, and winning in particular is a strong motivator. Losing should feel disappointing, and the only way to know if you win or lose is to keep score. If a team, or a child loses long enough, it will help drive them to work harder, practice longer.
Certainly, the only emphasis in sports should not be whether a team wins or loses. Very young kids shouldn’t be pressured to win or taught to see sports as a ‘win only’ endeavor. However, losing shouldn’t just be perceived as ‘no big deal.’ Losing teaches kids how to win. Losing should be a motivator to try harder, do better, and work more. This way when a child does win, they can relish in the fact that ‘practice pays off,’ and can feel the elation of winning. If you never lose you also never win. ‘
Millions of children participate in competitions. Whether the venue is a bad competition, or an individual gymnastic meet, a swim meet, a softball game or a soccer tournament the only way to decipher who wins and who loses is to keep score. Removing scores from athletic (or other extra curricular) activities doesn’t make children better off in the long run. While it might save the feelings of a few kids along the way, it goes against the values and life lessons that are learnt from being involved in sports. And kids, while they may enjoy getting a trophy that they really didn’t deserve, learn entitlement and are being fortified with the tainted lesson that no matter what they do or don’t do in life they are winners. The reality is that the people who succeed and ‘win’ in life are the ones who are willing to work for that success. A 12-year-old child will always be able to remember the feeling they got when they won a championship game, or came in first place at an athletic venue. Holding on to this feeling the feeling of accomplishment, is what will become a driving factor in their life success. Similarly, losing and the disappointment that comes with it, is what motivates people to WANT to win.
The University of Florida research report on the benefits of sports for children probably sums it up best. In the report, clinical child psychologists said,
All sports teams train and practice for particular goals. For example, basketball teams practice layups, free throw shots and dribbling drills. All of these are done with the intention of improving before a game. The team’s goal is to win the game or get better at the sport. Sports demonstrate the importance of setting goals and working towards them. Goal setting skills will help children work towards other achievements in their lives.‘
If a child never loses what sort of goals will they develop? ‘
If a child doesn’t learn what it takes to win how will they make improvements in their life? ‘
If score keeping is abolished, in the interest of making athletics nothing but fun and games, what incentive do children have to practice, and play harder or improve? ‘
And, if the notion of losing is removed from a child’s life, what will happen when they grow up and become adults and realize that the playing field of life is not levelized? In the end, life is not all fun and games. When children learn how to win, and how to lose at a young age athletics are a beneficial subsidy to life.