The common notion in sports equates success with victory – scoring more points, runs or goals than the opponent. Yet, in a youth sport model, the measure of success goes beyond records and standings. Success is a personal thing and is related to one’s own standards and abilities.
In terms of the educational benefits of sport, children can learn from both winning and losign. But for this to occur, winning must be placed in a healthy perspective. We have therefore developed a four-part philosophy of winning designed to maximize young athletes’ enjoyment of sport and their chances of receiving the positive outcomes of participation:
Winning isn’t everything, nor is it the only thing. Young athletes can’t possibly learn from winning an dlosing if they think the only objective is to beat their opponents. Does this mean that children should not try to win? Definitely not! As a form of competition, sport involves a contest between opposing individuals or teams. It would be naïve and unrealistic to believe that winning is not an important goal in sports. But it is not the most important objective.
Failure is not the same thing as losing. Athletes should not view losing as a sign of failure or as a threat to their personal value. They should be taught that losing a game is not a reflection of their own self-worth.
Success is not equivalent to winning. Thus, neither success nor failure need depend on the outcome of a contest or on a won-lost record. Winning and losing apply to the outcome of a contest, whereas success and failure do not. How, then, can we define success in sports?
Athletes should be taught that success is found in striving for victory. The important idea is that success is related to commitment and effort! Athletes have complete control over the amount of effort they give, but they have only limited control over the outcome that is achieved. If we can impress on children that they are never “losers” if they commit themselves to doing their best and give maximum effort, we are giving them a priceless gift that will assist them in many of life’s tasks.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Sports and Your Child: A 50 Minute Guide for Parents by Frank Smoll & Ronald Smith.