My son Nolan loves sports. Taking after me, he is already a huge Sharks & 49er fan. He loves watching the games with me and attending them whenever he can. He might even have surpassed my obsessiveness with the Sharks; last season—when he was still only seven—I would wake up and find him watching NHL news and highlights on the NHL Network. When the season was over, he would watch past games with On Demand. I am not complaining at all. I couldn’t ask for anything more and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t end up with the son that just has to like your team’s arch rival!

Enough about professional sports; what I want to discuss is recreational sports with kids. This is the fourth season that I am assistant coach for Nolan’s soccer team. It is a lot of fun. It is also a lot of work. I was very athletic and competitive growing up.  I played soccer for many years, earning the MVP title a couple seasons. I can remember how much fun it was and how it felt to win, lose, and receive special awards. In addition, I am very intense and loyal to the pro teams I follow. Put this together and I find myself wanting to create the next soccer superstar with Nolan. I can tend to be harder on him than the other kids at practice, and I realize that is not fair. Being part of the team, I witness how other parents, from our team and others, act with their children, and there are clearly two opposite camps. There are some parents and coaches who constantly yell at the kids, as if they are watching an elimination game in the world cup. Then there are the parents who do not believe in winning and losing; they think that every child’s team is a winner and that everyone should get a trophy. You can probably guess which camp I’m in!

That’s right, I lean more toward the competitive side; it’s just in my nature. Since I have been coaching four seasons now, I have learned to balance it out a bit since the last thing I want to do is make Nolan, or the rest of the team, hate soccer. This could trickle into other possible sports they might play. At the same time, I want him to develop and progress as a player and understand that as you move forward in life and sports, everything gets a bit more competitive; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Soon enough he will be entering the world of tryouts where there is always the possibility of being a backup who never gets to play, or even being cut from the team.

I believe that both extremes are detrimental and harmful to the kids. I already touched on the overly competitive extreme above. Now let me discuss the other extreme. I find this to be a pretty sensitive subject with a lot of parents. It is my opinion that this might even be more harmful. I do not think we do kids any service by making everyone a winner and giving out trophies to everyone whether they win or lose. How does this help them progress or develop as a player? How does this help instill a sense of work ethic and teamwork? What happens in the real world? The better player wins and the others get cut. The players with better work ethics progress further. The kid who is a real team player keeps the job.

I understand this is not cut and dry, but it is our job as parents to prepare our children for the “real world.” Not everyone gets a trophy, promotion, special award, or some other special recognition. Life sometimes is tough and competitive. The bottom line is, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. It is our job as parents to teach and encourage our kids to go out and give it their all so they can be proud of what they did; win or lose.

I think this is an important topic because I have noticed a certain attitude in some generations that have come after mine. That is an attitude of entitlement. I have witnessed a large cross-section of today’s society that wants everything handed to them; they don’t want to work for it. Then, on the other side, there are those who only care about themselves and have no work ethic or team skills.

I am not saying that the extreme attitudes of parents and recreational sports are the cause, but it all plays a role in the development of our children.

Any thoughts or opinions? I would love to hear them.

Go Team!

– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad