Eleven-year-old soccer players should play to win, writes Barry Rubin on Pajamas Media. Under a coach who tells kids that winning doesn’t matter, his son’s team has lost every game.
He never criticizes a player or suggests how a player could do better. My son, bless him, once remarked to me: “How are you going to play better if nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?” The coach just tells them how well they are playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat, he told them they’d played a great game.
And of course, the league gives trophies to everyone, whether their team finishes in first or last place.
“Sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills,” Rubin believes.
Asked to coach for a day, he put the best players in at forward and goal and kept them in, giving weaker players the chance to play for at least half the game as defenders. He gave the team a pre-game pep talk:
Every week you’ve been told that the important thing is just to have a good time. Well, this week it’s going to be different. The number one goal is to win; the number two goal is to have a good time. But I assure you: if you win, you will have a much better time!
The team took a 1-0 lead. Told that defense was critical, the weaker plays “performed heroically, holding off repeated attacks on their goal.”
One shouted from the sidelines something I thought showed real character: “Don’t let the good players do all the work!” Instinctively, he recognized that some players are better, but he wanted to bring everyone’s level up rather than down. I’m tempted to say he was going against what he was being taught in school.
They played hard and they won. They were thrilled.
If you don’t care about winning, you’re merely handing triumph to the other side. In a soccer league that might not matter, yet in personal life, your level of achievement and satisfaction is going to depend on giving your best effort.
That works for Western civilization too, Rubin writes.