The Importance of Winning in Youth Baseball

If you’re involved in youth sports in any way, surely you’ve seen the photos by now.  The parents have plastered them all over Facebook, boasting with pride.  Their kid’s team is posing with their medals or trophies holding up a finger signifying that they think they are #1.  Good for them.

Bad for youth sports.

Our obsession with winning has brought out a serious problem in our athletic society.  Playing the game the right way, being fair, and fully learning the game have all taken a backseat to the scoreboard.  What matters most to too many parents and coaches is winning the game.

Do the kids even care about winning?

Sure they do, but who’s fault is that?  Kids come home from games, and immediately anyone listening wants to know if they won or not.  They should be asking if they enjoyed it and how they played, but they’ve just got to know who won the game.

Many who ask this question don’t have bad intentions.  A lot of times, I’m betting that the question-poser just feels like they are being polite in asking about it and the obvious question seems to be about the score.  But society in general justifies winning as success.

Here’s the problem: anyone can win.  All you need is an inferior opponent.

I would rather lose a close game against a tough opponent in which my team played very well than win a game against a very weak opponent in which my team played poorly.

Now I’m not saying that losing is acceptable, but I am saying that it’s necessary.  Children, and people in general, need failure as a way to push themselves harder.  To improve, we need to face adversity.  A team that wins every game will soon have players that don’t feel like they have to put out their maximum effort.  On the flip side, however, a team that loses every game can suck the life out of players’ morale.  The coach must find a suitable schedule that is fair and challenging.

The coach’s job is just flat out tough.  To coach correctly, which means to teach the players in a way to maximize their growth, means to not put their teams in the best position to win.  It’s tempting to plug in a player at first base all year long because he can scoop a bad hop.  Many of the team’s supporters will ignore the dangerous amount of innings their team’s ace pitcher is throwing because he’s leading them to the championship game.

Then there’s the paid coaches, your high school, college and academy coaches.  Their job depends on winning games.  The best will find a way to focus on development and helping the team improve enough so that the games turn more favorable.

For any coaches out there reading this, I’m challenging you right now.  Remember why you are coaching.  Your job is to teach the game to the players and help them improve.  Don’t play to win at the expense of your players’ development.  You owe them more than that.

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