Encourage Kids to Compete not Compare

Dear Fellow Sports Parent,

What do you want your child to get from playing sports?  Why do you sign him up?  Drive him around?  Go to his games?  Cheer him on?  Why do we go to the trouble?

Because we want to give him the things that sport has to offer: healthy exercise, skill/coordination, confidence, camaraderie, goal direction, hard work, perseverance.  In short: life skills.  And we see sports as a microcosm of life.  A chance to try our hand at life where the stakes are small.  A place to develop skills that will help us succeed.

But by the age of 13, about the age when our kids start making their own decisions, 70% of them are dropping out of sports.  There are a number of factors at work as they enter adolescence, but one looms large in the sports venue itself: an unspoken but clear message that if by age 13, if they’re not on an elite team, practicing nearly every day and, perhaps individually on off-days with a personal trainer, then they’re just playing.  What’s the point?  Why not find something you’re good at?  Just quit.

What are we teaching our kids?  That life is not about team, perseverance, hard work, confidence.  It’s really about being better than the others.  It’s about winning.  And if you’re not winning, quit…before you lose.  Find something you can win at.  Is this the message: “if life is not going smoothly, quit?”

It’s time to re-assess why we put our kids in sports in the first place.  To play.  Be fit.  Make friends.  Learn discipline, perseverance and hard work.  And yes, compete.  But only with the goal of becoming better, stronger, faster, more-prepared selves.  So they can offer this to the team.  So they can take this with them to their next team, their next challenge, their next opportunity.

We get ourselves into trouble when we move from competitive to comparative.  When better  becomes better than.  When we settle for best.  ‘Better than’ never makes us our best.  Because it distracts us.  When our eyes are on the competition, it takes our eyes off the ball, off the goal, off the finish line.  We lose our focus.  After all, no batter ever hit a home run while staring at the pitcher.

Fellow parents, let’s keep our focus on the prize that will pay life long dividends.  A healthy sports experience that elevates play for the games’ sake.  Join Fit2Finish in re-committing to keeping them in the game.

Yours in Healthy Sports,

Wendy R. LeBolt, Ph.D.

Founder and President, Fit2Finish, LLC

About Wendy LeBolt

Since 2005, Fit2Finish has been working with parents, coaches, and athletes to keep youth sports healthy. Injuries and burnout should not be sidelining our kids, but young players need special care and handling to manage today’s demanding competitive schedules. Fit2Finish wants to put this know-how into your hands.


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