The greatest takeaway of sports

EducationWorld March 14 | EducationWorld

PLAYWRIGHT RICHARD DRESSER, a Little League (baseball) father and coach, wrote a humorous play Rounding Third in 2002. The play features two coaches ” Don, a veteran, tough, blue-collar, win-at-all-costs coach whose son is the star pitcher on a baseball team, and Michael, a newcomer to the town and to baseball. He is a corporate executive who signs on as Don™s assistant because he wants a special activity with his son, who has never played baseball before. Michael believes the job of coaches is to shield children from the intense pressure of competition while making sure everyone has a good time. Don thinks they should be teaching the kids how to win. At the heart of their conflict is a struggle of styles and will, about a win-at-all-cost approach to parenting and sports versus a philosophy of nurturing personal growth.
As members of the forever fallible human race, we can say without qualification that, of course, everyone wants to win. And, let™s be clear, there™s nothing wrong with this aspiration. Wanting to win is a perfectly natural part of sports from the peewee to professional levels. In short, it feels good to have a winning season. But over the decades, I™ve learned that winning isn™t that important to young children, and it shouldn™t be to you either. The right question to ask is, œDid you have a successful season? I™m not indulging in semantics; there is a big difference between a winning and a successful season. Let me explain.
Coach, I know you and your players worked hard while preparing for your games. Why did you put so much time and energy into it? Did you really do it for a œwinning season? Is this what you ultimately wanted for your players and yourself? Or did you want to help young sportspersons reach their potential, and experience a sense of achievement? I like to think it was the latter motivation. I like to think your goals were means rather than ends-oriented. If they were ends-oriented, then your players will only be happy when winning. If means-oriented, they will be happy with their game and satisfied with personal successes, even if the team loses.
Winning and success are not synonymous. You can have a winning season, yet an unsuccessful one, and you can have a losing season but successful one. Contrary to popular belief, success and failure don™t depend on outcomes. Success is defined by more complex sociological and psychological parameters including effort, accomplishment, forging friendships, bonding, making a contribution, acquiring and testing skills, building memories, and participating in enjoyable family activities with good old-fashioned fun.
These are things coaches have control over to a greater extent than the final score of a contest or game. Losing a game does not necessarily amount to failure, but the loss of self worth definitely does. Feelings towards oneself are a response to significant others™ reactions and situations. Fortunately, we can do something about this. We can eliminate fear of failure. Parents, coaches and fans can raise the  self-esteem of athletes and sportspersons, and even regard every setback as a learning experience from which lessons for performance improvement can be derived.
I agree that young people strive for success. i got my start in athletics, specifically basketball, as a third-grader growing up in a difficult neighbourhood in southern California. For more than five years, I regularly rode a bus three-five times a week ” 40 minutes each way ” to a YMCA court to practice and play games. I well remember those long bus rides. But I also remember that my worries were centred around whether the other team would show up and I would get a chance to play, test my skills and improve my game.
Of course, during play-offs we competed wholeheartedly, but we never thought that winning was everything. Forming friendships was an important part of the experience, and life-long relationships were built while doing our best to win. Most importantly, ending up on the losing side though disappointing, wasn™t translated as failure. Basketball wasn™t then, nor is it today, about domination and defeat.
The greatest takeaway was that we played hard, but in a spirit of camaraderie, challenging our opponents to the utmost and deriving the pleasure of performance from it. Competition at its best is a linking of teammates, opponents and even officials. It™s about playing, about testing and improving skills. And finally, it™s about being thankful for your opponents because without them there would be no game!
(Dr. George A. Selleck is a San Francisco-based advisor to EduSports, Bangalore)

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