Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.
Professional sports and even highly competitive intercollegiate sports seem irreversibly addicted to the idea that sports is basically a business and that the only thing that makes sports profitable is winning. And if that means we have to tolerate egocentric self-indulgent showboating or whining, violence or even cheating, so be it. Clearly these attitudes have invaded youth sports as well. Everywhere we see that a lot of adults — both coaches and parents — need to grow up and realize the game is not about either their egos or ambitions.
The appropriate mission of youth sports is to provide kids a safe environment in which they have fun, build character, learn to practice sportsmanship, and develop skills and traits that help them become responsible citizens and live happy, healthy lives. Striving to win is an important aspect of competition and teaching kids how to compete effectively and honorably is important, but youth sports is not primarily about winning; it’s about trying to win and learning through effort and improvement.
Of course winning is fun and kids like to win, but it’s the adults who distort the experience because of their need to win. No matter how much we try, only a few youngsters will move beyond high school sports, and an even tinier percentage will make a living from athletics. But when youth sports are done right, every participant can build positive life skills and gain lifelong memories from the pursuit of victory with honor.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.