The Value of Competition in Youth Sports

Before starting a family, my spouse and I talked about religion, schooling, and our political beliefs. However, we didn’t talk about something that would prove to be a huge problem in our relationship: youth sports.

When it comes to competition and sports, we have opposing views on everything. He says that I want “everyone to get a trophy.” I say he wants everyone to compete like they are fighting for their life.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. My view encourages the child to keep trying, that there is more to life than winning and that a win or loss does not define their worth. On the other hand, my husband’s view (according to him) shows the child that hard work pays off and that life isn’t fair. Sometimes you are going to lose, and sometimes you are going to win.

We have spent countless hours discussing these different schools of thought, and most of the time, it comes down to this: Is a little bit of competition a good thing? I think it can drive someone to be their best, but we are also talking about impressionable children who are still learning how to be little humans. My mom once told me that it’s important to let kids try new things because they learn to appreciate just how hard it is. One of the best lessons I got in this was the first time I tried to figure skate. Need I say more?

For many children, the first sport they play is soccer. At that young age, it makes sense because they are basically running in one direction and kicking a ball toward a target. I once heard a kindergarten coach describe soccer practice as herding cats for 45 minutes. The first time our daughter got on the soccer field, she made fun of someone that missed their kick and had to sit on the sidelines. Literally, that happened in the first five minutes of the practice. Later, she would become the team cheerleader and do a special dance every time the team scored.

kids playing soccer

What we learned is that playing the game of soccer wasn’t really the point. It was all the other things she was learning that really mattered. In the first few practices, she learned to be a member of a team, not make fun of someone when they fail, and that even if she wasn’t scoring a goal, she could still find a way to participate.

Since that first foray into soccer, our two children have tried it all: Tae Kwan Do, horseback riding, volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball, football, wrestling, tennis, etc. Each of these sports has taught them something valuable about life, and not all of them have followed the same approach. They’ve won; they’ve lost; they’ve all gotten a trophy, too. But, despite the ups and downs and triumphs and heartbreaks, through it all, I say to you: let them try it all!

My spouse and I still have arguments about who is right and wrong when it comes to sports values. But, we both agree that whether your child is winning or losing, the more they can experience, the better off they will be.

Hi! My name is Lindsey. I grew up in Lawrence and graduated from the University of Kansas. I live in Eudora with my son Colby (11), daughter Payton (13), and my husband Jason (who is just old). I'm an editor for a scientific journal by day. In my free time, I contemplate what it means to be 42 years old and wonder if it means I need to stop wearing rubber flip-flops. I also love taking long baths, watching trashy Netflix shows, and I am passionate about working to improve my community.

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