The Problem with Winning in Youth Wrestling


Article by Chris Mance
Yesterday, I listed “winning” as one of the values that demotivate children in my article on how to help kids become self-motivated. Obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong with winning. The problem comes from parents and coaches who over value winning.

The Problem with Winning in Youth Sports
For example, in youth wrestling I have personally witnessed parents and coaches who demotivate children by over valuing winning. These parents and coaches typically display this behavior by doing things such as:

excessive weight cutting
lying about their kids grade or age
heavy use of caffeine and other artificial stimulants to energize their kids
emphasizing live wrestling and competition over drilling technique and practice
punishing their kids for losing
discussing and comparing other kids win/loss record with their kids
emphasizing techniques that only work at the youth level and that don’t promote long term growth

Each one of these behaviors can lead young athletes to believe that winning matters more than anything else.

As kids grow older, this belief could lead them down a dangerous path. Not only will they lack self-motivation, they may also seek out performance enhancing drugs and other cheats to take shortcuts to winning.

Winning in Youth Sports Is Not As Important As Many Think

The reality is that winning is important but just not as important as many parents think. When it comes to kids enjoying youth sports, winning is not even one of the top factors. Research done by George Washington University’s School of Public Health found that winning is not even close to one of the top factors.

This study found that the following were the most important factors:

Being a good sport
Trying hard
Positive coaching
Learning and improving
Game time support
Team friendships
Mental bonuses
Team rituals

In conclusion, if you want to develop self-motivated kids who win in the long run, you must de-emphasize the value of winning now. Instead, allow your kids to develop the will to win on their own by developing values that build this will over the long run. These values include purpose, sacrifice, preparation, discipline, creativity, helping others, work ethic, commitment, community, and team work.

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