Let the Kids Play
Kids sports should be about learning and having fun, not just winning.
Last weekend, my daughters’ soccer team played two games and lost both. When the second of the weekend’s games concluded, one of my daughters said, “I knew we were going to lose.” That’s most likely because the team has lost all three games of their games this season. But that’s not for lack of skill or effort. My daughters’ coaches have the philosophy that all kids on the team should play, learn the basics of soccer and have fun.
That philosophy means the coaches, like many in the league, don’t just play the top few players most of the time and bench the others. The coaches don’t stick the same kids in the same positions each week (e.g., always putting the most aggressive kids on offense and putting the less physical kids on defense), and aim to have every kid learn and play every position.
My daughters are both eight, and most kids on the team are still learning the game. While I would like for their team to win a game or two, I appreciate the approach their coaches are taking. All the girls on our team are young – they are all in the third or the fourth grade – and many have a lot to learn before they commit to a particular position or start playing in a seriously competitive way. Plus, our township has a travel team, so girls who want to play competitively can play there – the league my girls play is a recreational league.
I remember what it was like to be a kid who was benched a lot of the time, and it wasn’t fun and didn’t do much for my already shaky confidence. I played basketball and seemed to do well in that, but when I played softball as a fifth grader, I was less than competitive. The coach didn’t play me much (or stuck me way out in the outfield), so when I hit what should have been a home run once, I was so shocked that I kept stopping at each base and only wound up getting a triple.
And although my daughters’ team lost last weekend, I saw many great things happening on the team. The girls were beginning to pass the ball to each other, instead of hovering around the ball like a gigantic swarm of bees. The girls who played on offense had some good shots on goal, while the defense and goalie made some great defensive moves.
Perhaps these new skills the girls are gaining will translate into a win one weekend. But if not, hopefully they will have fun. That’s my biggest hope because at this age, that should be the goal of the game, not playing solely to win.