In my own opinion there is no doubt that in children’s sport there can only be one answer to the question above and that is CHARACTER. However, I am left wondering at the moment whether this has got severely lost in translation.
I am not one of those people who does not value winning either and undoubtedly my own children do enjoy it when they win their games at the weekend.. They are both extremely competitive just as I am.
However, I think what has got lost in translation is that many are seeing winning as the primary objective in children’s sport and judging the outcome as the number one success criteria.
I appreciate that at a later date there may come a time when winning may become equally if not more important but it certainly should not be in the early years of a child’s sporting experience.
When people finish their sporting career, have their 40th birthday party and get into their latter years many of those memories mentioned by others in speeches are often based around character traits, not what was won on the sports field and how much money they made.
The problem in the pursuit of glory in children’s sport at the moment is that winning has become the defining factor and it does not really matter how people get there as long as this has been accomplished.
At the far end of the spectrum of this is the athletes who continue in this vein and see cheating as part and parcel of sport. We only have to look at the number of medals that have been stripped from athletes at the Olympic games over the last few years.
The attitude becomes if everyone is doing it to win, then I must follow suit. There are no positive character traits in this whatsoever.
Surely equally as important as what you achieve is how well you do it.
Who is to blame for the current environment in children’s sport and what can be done about it?
Is it the fame and glory more readily available on TV and social media that has driven parents to chasing the dream or is it the organisations and coaches who continue to value winning above all else?
Coaches often talk about parents being unhelpfully competitive and having unrealistic expectations, which
are often fair comments. However, have the club and coach created a culture and focus that celebrates positive character traits and processes as opposed to the scoreline.
Sport provides one of the best opportunities for children to come in contact with rules and social values. It defines the need to get along well with others and be accepted as part of a team. It plays a prime role in promoting values such as tolerance, fairness, and responsibility. Only in the correct hands will these benefits become apparent. Clubs, coaches and parents have a key part to play at training, on match day and at home.
There should be an expectation from parents that coaches are providing opportunities for character development and life lessons to be learnt as opposed to them hiding behind the excuse that they have won some trophies for your child and their team.
We need to start demanding more from all stakeholders. Organisations, clubs and parents need to provide environments that emphasise character, good values and put winning in its rightful place!