Self-Reflected Question: A Healthy Level of Child Sport Competition

“Go, William, Go!” Our family was watching William play basketball.  He had played on a previous team and his coach asked if he would like to play on a different team with himself as one of the coaches along with other kids who enjoyed playing basketball.  I felt a little reserved in my heart.  William is a great athlete and he definitely had the capability though I felt reserved about the level of competition. William is eight. My husband at times has mentioned the necessity for drive of competition.  While I agree, sports are competitive and the objective is to win, my question becomes: how does it not become all about winning and the competition.  I could see William in the game, regressing, taking himself out.  Was it because me, as the primary person who interacts with him has discouraged him from competition in sports or is it not a desire within him to win?  I love achievement! I love the gratification of winning.  It is a great feeling.  My wonder and thought, how does it (competition) stay at a healthy level where a child loves the game yet has that deep passion for capturing the win?  Is it necessary to have winning become the focus of the game or are there other objectives that are just as important during a game? No doubt, there definitely is a need for competition in every part of life and particularly in sports. The goal is to win! In self-interest and to settle my conflicting feelings, I read some articles regarding competition and explored different viewpoints.  My conclusion when it comes to sports and competition is this:

1)      Encourage good sportsmanship.

2)      Let your child know that they are not the win or loss.

3)      They don’t have to be the best. They need to work on doing their best.

4)      Learn to be a good loser.

5)      Opportunity to build leadership skills.

Winning is fun, competing is fun.  Helping William know that on a team, he doesn’t have to put pressure on himself to be the best or carry the team but to be a contributor to a successful team is the goal and a great achievement. Building tools such as leadership skills while working to meet a goal—the win–is a great success in itself. The answer to my self-reflected question, the focus of any sport is the win. Though yes, there are other objectives in addition to the win that are just as important.

Website Articles on Competition and Kids ting/self-esteem/why-kids-are-competitive1/


5 thoughts on “Self-Reflected Question: A Healthy Level of Child Sport Competition

  1. Melissa,
    That is a great question. How do you maintain the competitive edge even though you know winning really doesn’t mean EVERYTHING? Especially at such a young age, there are almost limited amount of lessons a child can learn through competitive sports even though he or she didn’t win.
    I remember playing baseball as a kid and crying because we got second place. Looking back 20 years ago I think that I was crying because the other team got a slightly bigger trophy. But after 20 years of baseball experience on that day that 1st place trophy meant that WE had just won the most important game in the whole world. If we beat that team on that day, there was no other team (not even the Chicago Cubs) could beat us on that day! Victory! We think to ourselves, “look what we just did! All of our hard work paid off!” That’s me looking back 20 years ago, back then I probably really just wanted that bigger trophy to display on our family’s living room mantle. 🙂
    In another occurence when we lost a game, I started crying, but this time I also lied about an opposing player saying a swear word to get him in trouble. If I couldn’t win I was going to find a way to win, and that’s when I recognized poor sportsmanship.
    I really do not know why, but I really wanted to win, so bad.
    Eventually I stopped crying (as much) and that was the last time I lied about another kid swearing. I eventually learned the rules of the game and the proper etiquette of baseball. Eventually I had to learn how to work harder and smarter if I wanted to win fair and square. Eventually I would learn how to set goals and eventually I would learn how to maintain the desire for baseball that I had when I was 10 years old.
    My point being that whatever a child is interested in: playing sports, playing music, being a scholar, or being whatever he or she wants, they MUST have desire and passion for this thing. If the child doesn’t have desire and passion it’s okay, he or she will just move onto the next activity. However, If a child develops the desire and passion he or she will eventually learn the rules and etiquette, how to work harder and smarter at their skill, and how to set their own personal goals for that particular skill.
    I think it’s a very positive experience if the kid uses competition to improve him or herself, not to get gain from someone else’s failures but to recognize their abilities and the limits he or she can surpass with success.

  2. Adam,

    Thank you for your view! It always helps me to see ideas from a different perspective when somebody else shares their point of view. I really enjoyed what you said about the desire and passion a child has for the activity they participate it. Perhaps as a parent sometimes, you can see how great their potential is and you hope they too will see it, sooner than later. I also liked what you said regarding a child using competition to improve their mindset–helping to recognize their abilities and limits and to be able to surpass both areas.

  3. Love that you made this post , I have also been thinking a lot about this subject. It seems the older the kids get the harder they are on themselves to be the best. Whether that means the best on the team or a part of the best team. I think our job as parents is to like you said in your post to Encourage that they are always trying their best and putting in their all. I have learned a lot from watching jaysons a long with other children from his teams facial expressions after they make a mistake. They look right over to their parents. With the saddest look in their eyes. Some parents are really rough on the kids. Our kids need to know that mistakes happen and it’s ok. I can’t handle hearing a parent talking unkindly to a child about something they do in game. Seriously it’s not the end of the world and that is what makes competition unhealthy, when it hurts the child’s self esteem. I also make a point to cheer for the other team as well. In baseball if a player makes a good play or hits really well I am going to Clap!

    1. Thanks Tiff for commenting! I do like the idea of cheering for the other team too. I do find myself doing this quite a bit. With William and now Isabella as she has started playing soccer we always let them know it is their best we are looking for. Sometimes they get it sometimes they don’t. Sometimes further clarification is needed. And, I’ve also learned each child is different when it comes to competition.

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