Should there be losers in youth baseball? Is the emphasis on “winning” or “having fun” more important for baseball players? Pro player Doug Bernier explains why both are important for youth baseball players.
As you mature in the game of baseball and have different coaches you will find extremes to both side of this argument. Some emphasize winning at all cost, some emphasize having fun, and most are in between.
I believe they must go hand in hand in order to get the most out of every athlete. I will highlight the positives of “having fun” and “winning” and see how they fit together. Like it or not, as you get older and move up from little league to high school to college there is more emphasis on “winning” from your coaches. Even though it is still just a game to you, it is a results based job for your coaches. They are often times put in a difficult position because your teams wins and losses can have an impact on whether or not the coach returns the next season. This is a tough reality but it is very real.
Having Fun: Having fun is the foundation to playing sports. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing it may be time to find another hobby, sport, or coach that has a philosophy similar to yours. Having fun is very important in youth baseball and even in professional baseball. It is an all too common situation now days where a parent is excessively pushing their child to be the best baseball player without regard to the less tangible factors of fun and love for the game. I would remind these parents that without the complete cooperation from the child, he will definitely lose enjoyment for the sport over time. (Bonus thought: If the parent is constantly pushing the child, the child will never learn to push himself.) When you lose the fun in sports you will think of it as a task or job and not be able to give it all you have. You simply are not likely to be a great player if your heart isn’t in it. For this reason, having fun is the first part of being a baseball player.
Winning: I like to call it competing, and it is a skill that needs to be learned. It is important to learn how to win as well to know how to lose. Let me explain.
Many areas in life are a competition: Sports, school, personal life, and careers. Some say that having a loser in youth baseball can diminish a child’s self esteem. Maybe that is true, but teaching your kid that he’s a winner even if he doesn’t try hard is not a very good life lesson either. In sports and in life, it’s not the will to win (everyone has that come game day) but it is the will to prepare to win that matters. Also, it’s a chance to teach how to win well by being humble and sharing credit with your team.
Learning how to deal with a loss is important too. We all need to learn how to not making excuses when we lose, how to learn from our mistakes and do better, and – maybe most importantly – learn that losing doesn’t make us less of a person. Most adults struggle with this idea, but learning this at a young age can help our development throughout life. This is a life skill that will be of great use to them even after their baseball playing days are over with.
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Vince Lombardi
What’s your take on the emphasis of winning vs “having fun” in youth sports? What life lessons can you think of that relate to competition specifically?