Monday, October 20, 2008

I coach to win.

one of the joys of being a parent with skill acquisition teaching experience is coaching my son's teams. It doesn't matter which team, we simply break the sport down into it's fundamentals; catching, throwing, running, hitting, skating, shooting, handling the puck or dribbling, kicking and running into open space.

first thing is that the kids learn the skills to become proficient at the sport. this is nothing more than time and repetition (regardless of their inherent level of skill). the trick is to incorporate enough variety within teaching those skills that the children don't become bored. there are great methods of teaching this - skill & drill for one is great.

second thing is that the kids apply these skills in game situations. it really comes down to how well you can distract their focus from the 'score' and point them towards the 'skill' eg: did you see johnny's throw to 1st - that was great, or joanna kept the puck on her stick and her head up the whole time she skated down the ice. most leagues do a great job of setting criterion that don't mimic the actual game until such an age when kids are ready to handle it and have learned the fundamentals and their implementation.

third stage if you will is getting into a game and regardless of sport or age - when you are recreating the game situation, the focus should be on applying 1 & 2 for the purpose of winning. sure, you can tell them the score doesn't matter, and you can ask them if they had fun - but i'll burst your bubble and assure you they know. ever ask a kid who didn't win if they had fun? what was their answer? NO. ever ask a kid who did win if they had fun. HELL YA.

bottom line here is there is nothing wrong with coaching kids to win when the minute they are in the situation that mimics 80%+ of a 'real - game' situation. all of this feel good stimulus like base chase after the game, shootouts after the game, hot chocolate at half time, snack breaks here and pizza parties there will not mask the realities of a win or a loss. they are aware.

i'm certainly not suggesting winning is the only thing - but it is an important thing because the matrix of a win (or loss) are essential to ones development through life; team work - responsibility - graciousness - humility - defeat - thrill - agony - upset - triumph and to throw all of these very important emotions and experiences into a catch all phrase 'did you have fun', diminished their specific impact and importance on young people's development.

i'll never forget the 60 minute clip of the highschool students who claimed something to the extent of 'everyone's a winner - it's a joke - we all get a trophy for "having fun" so if that's what works for our parents... why bother trying'.

so i coach to win. not at the expense of, not for any personal triumph, but because i firmly believe in winnings importance towards character development. winning in a team sport setting requires a team effort that is objective. having fun doesn't require a team effort and therefor is subjective hence less conducive to the overall development of the child. for those who lob the rationale 'my johnny will have plenty of time to be in game situations later in life', i homer.... "great, then start teaching him how to handle them now" because if you don't - i assure you they won't be 'having fun then'

play to win - coach to win - and feel good about it.

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