I recently read a great article about youth sports via the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog. I had to share as I could not agree more on this topic! New York Times Motherlode Blog writer, KJ Dell'Antonia's "In Youth Sports, Losing is for Champions" discusses the importance of enduring losses as young, developing athletes. In her article, I can relate to the skier's recollection of persistent winning throughout her youth, only to eventually face the inevitable yet shocking loss any athlete must endure...."They were teaching me the lesson I taught them long ago. Sooner or later you'll get your butt kicked, so you'd better know how to deal with it. I did not appreciate the lesson."
After hauling my older brother and sister to hockey and figure skating practices at frequent-yet-odd times throughout the week, my parents decided to try speed skating. Although they were different ages and sexes, my brother and sister could both participate at the same practice. (Any parent knows this is a logistical jackpot!!) From the age of 4, I followed them onto the ice and started competitively speed skating. I was so little, my parents remember counting the strokes it took for me to make one lap around an outdoor rink in Cedar Rapids Iowa, and my count was 300 to the older pro's 20.... The wind was blowing so hard, it was two strokes forward, one step back...But I loved it. It was just very natural to me and I somehow learned the form at an early age (hence the Kardashian rear end I sport today, I suppose?)
Nevertheless, we had mixed-sex races by age, and I remember winning race after race. I was the only girl in my age group and I never met a boy that I couldn't beat (at least locally). Similar to the author skiing in borrowed boots, I recall having to race in embarrassing green corduroy pants, or someone else's skates because I didn't bring the right gear on occasion, and I still won. Granted, speed skating is a VERY small sport, so I am NOT claiming any sort of athletic grandeur here. AND, we would travel to meets out of state, where there was plenty of competition. I certainly did NOT win all of those races. But, then one day in my early teens, a girl named Nikki Ziegelmeyer (silver and bronze medalist in '92 and '94 Olympics, respectively) joined our team (from an indoor inline skating team), and she kicked my butt. It completely turned my world inside out. That year, it became clear that I would have to quit all other sports/activities and possibly even move to a year-round training camp to stay competitive. I stopped skating. Luckily, I had several other sports and activities that I loved to keep me busy. But, I absolutely recognize the importance for young athletes to experience BOTH wins and losses AS THEY PROGRESS, so they can continue to enjoy the sport, regardless of the outcome.
In my opinion, this is the key to longevity for the young athlete. Clearly, everyone loves to win. Its fun to win! Nobody wants to lose. Yet, I believe in an ideal world, a young athlete should experience both 50/50....Ok, Ok maybe 51 wins to 49 losses. You get the point. Just enough to wins to keep them encouraged and boost their confidence, but just enough losses to keep it real. When you have enough wins for encouragement, losing makes you hungry. Losing makes you tougher. Losing builds character. Losing pushes you to take your game to the next level. And enjoying the sport DESPITE the inevitable loss is key to longevity. ABC's Howard Cosell's iconic, "the thrill of the victory and the agony of defeat" are equally important in order to appreciate both sides. Because, as cliche as this sounds, that is life. If kids can experience both and STILL enjoy the sport, its nirvana. And when they enjoy the social aspects of their sports, this is icing on the cake. As hard as it is to watch your kid's team lose, I believe that the more their successes are countered with some failures, the longer they will continue to play, grow, and enjoy the sport...Just think about all the inspirational sports movies and stories out there. The winners always start their careers with PLENTY of losses. Rocky, Karate Kid, Miracle, Hoosiers, Invincible, Coach Carter, We are Marshall, McFarland USA...You get the idea. Ok, getting off my soapbox now! Happy sporting to you and your family!
Article is provided below....