Kids’ sport should not just be about winning
After watching my third season of children’s soccer, I’ve decided that winning is the new losing. My daughter’s team qualified for their first grand final on the weekend and she left the field in tears.
After two seasons of developing her skills and building her confidence, the new coach took a different approach this year.
As the season progressed, he decided the strongest team would be played. As she was perceived to be less strong than other players, over the last six weeks, she has played on average 15 or 20 minutes out of the hour.
Despite paying the same registration money as everyone else and turning up to training every week without fail, she is not allowed an equal share of the game and must give way to stronger players so that the team can progress in the competition.
When I gently asked about the reasoning for this last weekend, I was told nothing would change for her until she became stronger. She is playing in an under 13s team.
In case you’re wondering, this is not representative sport where coaches, players and parents are all on the same page striving for excellence and results. It is our local soccer club. Ground zero.
I have heard similar stories from friends. One woman’s son was given a `time out’ and repeatedly pulled off the field for `not being hungry enough for the ball’.
The other boys started teasing him, telling him his mother could beat him at soccer. He played in an under 7s team.
Another friend has managed her sons’ soccer teams several times over the years but was shocked recently at the behaviour of the coach for a group of under 12 boys.
When playing a `friendly’ game against another team within the same club, her son’s team were narrowly beaten. As they came off the field, the coach told them within earshot of the opposing team `I can’t believe you have been beaten by such a lousy team’.
When she suggested he tone his language down, he told her she did not understand his passion for the game. This has to stop.
If you want to look for the underlying causes of childhood obesity, look no further than our local sporting clubs where only the best are encouraged and the rest are also-rans.
Children are being discouraged and demoralised and their parents are understandably unwilling to put them in environments where they do little more than warm the benches for most of the game while the star players add to the team’s tally.
It is hard to fathom whether coaches are trying to live out their own unfulfilled ambitions or are utterly seduced by the attraction of a plastic trophy at the end of the season. It does not have to be like this.
My daughter spent two seasons with a fantastic coach, a man who praised her not inconsiderable ball skills and her ability to read play and pass the ball.
While she did not score goals, he identified when she set them up for other players and her growing tenaciousness on the field. We watched her grow larger than her small frame would indicate and saw the great pleasure she took in being an equal part of the team.
Despite giving all the girls equal time on the field, last year they came a respectable third. Right now, it’s looking a lot better than first.
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