- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2014

A youth sports league with an “everybody wins” mentality has rankled a psychology expert who wondered how such competitions prepare kids for real life.

Charles Williams, a psychology professor at Drexel University, chided youth sports organization i9 Sports for awarding all participants, regardless of the games’ results.

“In life, everybody doesn’t get a trophy,” he told Fox News on Thursday. “Sometimes you lose and sometimes you win … and that is part of American life.”

Mr. Williams said that if young children can’t learn that performance varies by the individual, then they’ll just be harder hit once they reach adulthood and struggle to compete in the business world.

But Brian Sanders, i9 Sports president and COO, argued that it’s more important to “have a balance between healthy, age appropriate competition and fun.”

Mr. Sanders said that while the game officials do keep score, all players are rewarded with at least a “participation award,” because the league’s main priority is “everybody wins, not competition.”

“We strike a balance, where it’s not all one or the other,” he told Fox.

Responding to Mr. Williams‘ criticism of the league policy of banning parents from cheering on the sidelines, Mr. Sanders clarified that parents can cheer, within guidelines.

“We allow them to yell on the sideline,” he said. “We just want them to yell constructively.”

The i9 Web page bills itself as the “first and largest youth sports league franchise,” with more than 600,000 members in 500-plus communities. The league, which doesn’t have tryouts, offers a range of sports from flag football to soccer to cheerleading.

“We operate our leagues very differently than other leagues,” the website said. “Everyone is a winner. Competition is a natural instinct. However, the ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality so prevalent in youth sports today is not only destructive to team morale, it severely undermines individual self-esteem.”