Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Winning:Teaching Quantum Physics to Children

(MHM Photo / © Jeff Wegge)

Children want to play and have fun.

In my talks and interviews around the country and parts of Canada I am occasionally confronted with the idea that winning is everything. More succinctly, I am presented with the hypothesis, or in some cases, the misconceived notion, that children of all ages must be taught the importance of winning while they play youth sports, because that is a life lesson. To follow that logic, or lack thereof, we must forget for a minute that 85% of all people who lose their jobs, except for massive layoffs, lose them because they don’t get along with other employees.

Winning is such an abstract concept, that even professional teams, who say they only care about winning, and spend millions of dollars each year to try and win, still can’t win a championship, and can’t explain to anyone how to guarantee a win.

But I am supposed to believe that part time youth and High School coaches with little or no professional training can teach children this abstract concept to kids? (Really, this is like bringing down a Harvard Professor who teaches Quantum Physics and has received the “Skytte Prize” to a Middle School and having her try to teach these kids Quantum Physics.)

Do you really think that John Calipari, after coaching Kentucky to an National Championship in college basketball, forgot how to win the next year when his team did not even qualify for March Madness, and the NCAA Division I National Championship Tournament?

Teachers in Elementary, Middle and High Schools, do not teach children that they have to win. They teach them the importance of the journey, and learning for the joy of learning. (Now this successful formula is being eschewed for the notion that teaching to the test is more important than being educated for life, but as usual, I digress)

Teachers understand how important it is for children to work and play together. They have the children work in groups and do projects together, because they know through experience and Master’s Degrees in Education, that this is the best way to teach children, and have the knowledge stay with kids after school is done. They know how important community is in children’s lives, now and in the future.

So why don’t we coach these kids the same way they are taught everyday in school? Ever seen a teacher yell at a kid during a test?

Winning and losing will prepare them for life these coaches say. People tell me that I am “Mamby Pamby” about winning and that Frozen Shorts espouses the theory that equal play for all is another form of entitlement. (Even though we say equal play for prepuberty children and play by performance for the older ones)

Equal play allows “lazy” coaches to get away without coaching all the fundamentals needed to teach children life lessons and the importance of winning I am told. Nonsense. It’s a kid’s game and some adults want to make their participation in youth sports, more important, and more profitable to them at the children’s expense. It is one of the major reasons they quit playing

Well, let’s back the bus up here for just a minute and see what is going on here. So, how is it that the paradigm of winning as being the almighty answer can and is sometimes built on a false foundation? How many of you have played in a game and won when you did not play well? How many have you played in a game, played well, and still lost? So, in these games winning and losing actually were not a clear indication of how well you played. The outcome of these games either gave you a win you didn’t earn or a loss you that may have hid how well you really played. How do you build and develop children with a false base? Now that is confusing to me. Imagine how confusing and frustrating it is to the children?

They just want to play and have FUN!

The idea of life lessons that employ the journey, not the goal, as being of paramount importance, and the #1 priority in youth and High School sports, has been lost on this generation of parents, coaches, and athletes for the most part. Scholarships, ego, status and angst have enveloped this new youth sports paradigm. As I like to ask in my talks: “How is your way working out for you?”

What is the outcome? Injuries are skyrocketing, violence has increased dramatically, and children are quitting playing youth and high school sports in record numbers. That is not a successful business model, is it?

The problem has become a national health issue. Type II diabetes is on the rise and obesity has quadrupled in the last 30 years.

Os sure, people can preach the mantra of winning, but really, what are those people really winning? Is this the base that we want to emulate the paradigm for our children’s future? I hope not.

I’d really hate to have to try and teach Quantum Physics!