Exactly what role do winning and losing have in the world of youth sports?
Is the emphasis — and should the emphasis be — on winning the competition or should it be on learning skills, self improvement and having fun?
In today’s world of youth sports, we are seeing more of a focus being put on winning competitions from coaches and parents.
This importance on winning often takes a toll on young athletes and can commonly cause them to quit their sport because of not being able to understand why self improvement should take priority over winning and losing.
Dr. Albert Knuth, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, says that “to encourage children to continue participating, we need to praise them for their efforts not the outcome of the game.”
In my latest episode of Sport Psychology Today, I interviewed Kim Fuchs, a gymnastics coach with over 30 years of experience and how she handles her gymnasts and their parents.
She has been part of the USA Gymnastics National Staff for the past 10 years.
Kim’s focus is on teaching her gymnasts about learning skills and understanding how to handle success and failure.
Our conversation focuses on how Kim believes that the main emphasis should be on having fun, self improvement and most importantly learning skills at practices and competitions.
Pressures on young athletes today often seems to come quite frequently from parents and coaches who often let their egos get involved in the child’s development rather than on focusing on building self confidence and not being afraid to fail.
Kim emphasized that she teaches her gymnasts that when you fall, you will get back up.
In this interview, we both emphasized how youth sports can teach great life lessons and that if the focus is on personal development, the athlete and parent will succeed, learn not to be afraid to fail and in the end enjoy the journey in their development as an athlete but more importantly as a person.
⦁ Dr. Andrew Jacobs has served as the team psychologist for the Kansas City Royals and numerous other professional, collegiate and Olympic teams. He’s hosted a sport psychology radio show for 26 years and is the co-author of “Just Let ‘em Play: Guiding Parents, Coaches and Athletes Through Youth Sports.”