Don’t Put Your Kids In Sports Because You’re Obsessed With Winning


I am heading into my fourth year as a sports parent. Mostly, our experiences have been a lot of fun and I’ve met some wonderful parents who share our attitude about the reasons our young children are playing sports. Of course, like all things, there are a few bad apples and their sour attitudes can easily color the entire season. The worst offense I have discovered so far are the parents are are very obviously there because they are obsessed with winning.

Naturally, the goal of any sport is to win. However, that is not how it should start out. At first, a child just needs to learn how to play as part of a team. How to be generous and help someone who needs it. To not hog the ball and that sometimes, it’s better to pass than shoot. They need to learn sportsmanship and of course, the rules and skills for whatever sport they are playing. What they don’t need to concern themselves with in those first years is winning.

To that end, we have yet to be part of a team that publicly displays the score. Our daughter’s coach pitch baseball team this year kept score between the coaches but not on a scoreboard for all to see. This was so they could know standings to go into play-offs. The kids were never told the score during the game, only if the team had won or lost at the end. I thought this was a great idea as a 6-7 year old might fixate too much on winning rather than learning the basics of the game. Apparently, others did not agree with me.

We had a handful of parents from our baseball team that made a weekly habit of complaining among themselves about how “boring” it was that the score and winning or losing was not a big part of the game. They made sure to keep score themselves and discuss the skills of our players as they headed up to bat. It really bothered me because the entire point is for the kids to get comfortable- to learn the game and become confident in their skills. I did not understand these parents and their fixation on who was winning. Sadly, I saw by the end of the season that one of these obnoxious parents might be pushing their child away from baseball with their crap attitude (he is our only player not returning for Fall Ball)- the dad would always go behind the fence when his son was up to bat and make comments to the coach who was pitching to him about whether he needed to throw higher, lower, faster, slower in order for his son to hit. The kid is seven and you’re heckling his coach and nagging at him while he’s trying to hit- are you kidding me?

I know we will be dealing with annoying sports parents for years to come as both of our kids play on a few teams each but at the ages they are now, I find it especially grating. These parents need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that for kids this age, winning is not the point. Believe me- I am the last person to sugarcoat things for a child and I think participation trophies are ridiculous and we shouldn’t treat them with kid gloves- they need to be tough and work hard. I just deeply believe that they need to learn to love these sports so that someday, when a game doesn’t go so well, they don’t throw in the towel and give up. Even if it feels shitty at that moment, they will remember those first few years where the only concern was having fun and being a good team player. Hopefully, it’s those first memories that keep our kids healthy and involved in sports for the rest of their lives.

(Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

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You can reach this post's author, Valerie Williams, on twitter.
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  • Rachel Sea

    I like that they keep score but don’t post it. Learning to win and lose graciously is a skill that is left out of every-participant-is-a-winner leagues.

    • Valerie

      I liked it too- we had some kids that seemed a little anxious when they struck out and I can only imagine the pressure they would have felt if the score were being made to be a big deal.

  • K.

    “Sir, it appears you were yelling ‘You suck!’ at the players on the park soccer field.”
    “Well, it appears you were yelling at 5-year-old girls.”
    “…Who SUCK! Why doesn’t anyone UNDERSTAND that?”

    I mean, really. Competitive parents with kids in pee-wee sports make me wonder what of their own glory they left behind in junior-high.

  • allisonjayne

    Yes. I have a lot of morons (relatives) on my facebook who are always posting these rants/photos about how “kids these days” need to be spanked more and taught that “life isn’t fair” and blahblahblah.

    It’s like – what exactly IS the point of having kids do sports? Do you want your kid to be physically active, to love playing, to feel proud of themselves when they do their best, to learn a skill and then work on improving it, to learn how to play as a team and follow direction and so on? Those are all really awesome reasons to have your kid do sports, and I don’t think any of them are negated by not having the focus be on winning.

    My nephew plays hockey, and the league he is in has this shuffle thing they do. About a month into the season, they (all the coaches, who are mostly parent volunteers I guess) get together and they review the stats of each team and they shuffle around the players. The main reason they do it is because it’s a lot more fun – and educational – to play a game if the teams are more or less evenly matched.

    Not to mention that all the parents pay the same fees, and yes, that means that everyone gets equal time on the ice too, which apparently also annoys some people.

    • Jen TheTit Whipper

      That’s awesome!

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  • Spongeworthy

    Ugh, sports parents. I’ve been involved in competitive sports pretty much my whole life, as a player and a coach, and I’ve seen some really awful behavior. What I wish a lot of parents would understand is that for a kid to really want to do well, and to want to get better at the sport, they have to genuinely enjoy their sport, and they aren’t going to do that if they associate it early on with anxiety and pressure. There is no need to put so much performance pressure on a kid at a young age. Let them learn, let them try different things, let them see what they like.
    Also, as someone else mentioned below, a lot of the parents I saw who really pushed their kids did so out of a desire to live vicariously through them. They didn’t go as far with sports as they thought they should have, so their child would, damn it! A lot of my friends from college who were also athletes have kids in sports now, and a lot of them are pretty chill about it, because they already had their turn, and they don’t feel the need to prove anything. This isn’t all of them, of course, but a lot. Sports can do a lot of great things for a kid, but not if the parent ruins the experience for them early on.

  • ted3553

    I have coached kids sports for many years and parents who are sure there are scouts in the bleachers watching their 7 year old need a reality check. I am all for wanting your child to do their best when they show up but once you get to the location, you’re turning your kids over to the coach so back off or volunteer to coach yourself. Realize that the odds of your kid playing in the big leagues are incredibly slim but the odds of making them hate what they’re playing because you can’t back off are very high.

  • rockmonster

    I’m so glad my parents didn’t do this with my bowling league.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I read a great article called “Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros” and it really said everything I think should be said about kids and sports — both the kids who don’t have the talent to be professionals and the kids who do. There does come a point where, if an older kid (probably teens, and actually late teens for most sports) really has the potential and actually wants to play professionally, they need to knuckle down. But up until that point, kids should just have fun with it. Teaching kids how to make winning and losing fun should be a big part of sports.

    The examples the guy gives in this article about things parents have actually said to him when he examines their injured child athlete made me feel a little sick.

  • aCongaLine

    Our kid is going to do some sort of organized sport- if only to learn to follow rules in a different setting, be a part of a team, and to burn. off. some. energy. Girl is a whole f*cking soccer team of stamina.

    winning? nope. don’t care. Just get stupid tired, please.