I need to make one thing perfectly clear here as I do at all of our presentations to clubs, coaches and parents that I am not a happy clappy, laissez-faire parent who does not value winning and competition.
For those people who know me as a player and a coach, winning was always important to me and remains so, and when it comes to my children I want them to be as successful as they possibly can be.
Both of my children are incredibly competitive, not learnt from me or the environments that I have created but very much because like most other children, they naturally like to compete. So why is it that we get into such a muddle in children’s sport when it comes to explaining winning and competition?
Winning, competition and development do not need to be mutually exclusive. Managed correctly and creatively environments can be created where all three can work alongside each other successfully.
Why is it that as soon as we go down the road that winning is not the number one priority that we immediately alienate a large part of the population?
Well this becomes because we have not done enough to inform and support parents or coaches on their role within their child’s sporting experience. Many are merely copying what they see on the TV and behaving in a way that they believe is the right way to support their child or their players.
History tells us that winning and success at a young age has very little bearing on what may happen in the future so why as adults do so many of us behave in a way that suggests it is our number one priority?
When we do our parents presentations, part of our talk asks parents to write on a post it note what they want their child to get from their sporting experience? You will be surprised to know that being an Olympian, a professional sportsman or winning on a regular basis very rarely feature.
What does feature heavily however is they would like their children to be well mannered, work hard, show respect, get on well with others and be healthy young people.
We encourage parents to think if their behaviours when it comes to matches and competition, focus and celebrate the traits that they have written down enough?
The reality is no, because for all of our good intentions when competition kicks in and our child is out there playing, winning seems to take over everything else.
We often write about and joke that the two most popular questions asked by sporting parents are ‘did you win and did you score?’ the child replies no to both of those answers and that is end of conversation for another week…….. if we could find ways of asking questions that allow reflection and to celebrate those positive character traits that we have asked for in the post it notes above then we can start to move winning and competition to its rightful place.
We know when children are asked about why they play sport, that winning and playing in tournaments often rank much lower than they would if the same question was asked to adults. Perhaps we should look seriously at this and question our own success criteria?
For those of you that worry that winning should be everything or that your child can never expect to reach the top without such competition, then I have got a few stories for you.
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