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Is having fun more important than winning when coaching children? | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Home » Groups » Coaching Children (Ages 5-12) » Forum » All other coaching children topics » Is having fun more important than winning when coaching children?
Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Is having fun more important than winning when coaching children?

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  • robertkmaaye

    I enjoyed quite a healthy debate this bank holiday weekend with a group of friends of many years, one of which recently became a father. All being passionate about sport the conversation turned to the hope that in the future we all may be able to follow his son around the world once he inevitably becomes a pro sportsman (golf, football or rugby union is the hope!).

    The conversation turned to the importance of winning in any child’s development, and how it can help children develop a winning mindset early on in their lives.

    A ‘healthy’ debate followed where one group firmly settled in the ‘winning is everything regardless of age’ camp and another were equally passionate that at such a young age ‘fun and enjoyment’ was more important (FYI both myself and the father were in the fun and enjoyment camp...winning is everything at 5...seriously?!)

    In the end we all agreed to disagree.

    I’d be interested to know what side of the fence people fall on.

    Is having fun more important than winning when coaching children?

  • David_T

    There are three main things that always worry me about the win at all mentalities cost with children.

    The first is that this can often lead to choosing the biggest strongest players and confusing that with 'talent'.  Now the majority of coaches do thankfully understand this now, but parents I would argue have not come round to this thinking yet.  Also too little is said about how we explain all of this to the parents of the child who is 6ft at 8 years old anfd can bag 50 goals a season.  Why will making him play as right back sometimes help him develop as a player in the longer term.

    The next point links to early specialisation and I think naturally follows on from the point above - now we've seen data that shows us that in the vast majority of sport, specialisaing too early probably does more harm than good and we also know from UK SPort/ EIS data that our Olympic Champions didnt specialise in one sport until at least their very late teens.  Now it doesnt always go hand in hand, but I think a team or coach focused on winning at all costs with a children's team may well contribute to a fixed mindset in terms of what sport or position a child is best at. 

    Finally this links to my main point- as a coach I cannot promise that you win. What I can and should promise is that I will help you improve, for me with children we should have an improve at all costs mentality and it should be focused on the long term not the short term....so yes sometimes that means the 5o goals a season player needs to play right back - even if it means the team lose.  But I bet it helps them win in 5 years time!



  • PaulT

    What is often forgot is that losing is also an important part of the development of young people. They need to learn how to deal with losing, create coping strategies, reflect on why they lost individually and as a team.

    Losing will help them to prepare for life in general and make them more rounded individuals.

    Often it is the bumps in the road that develop us most!

  • mantrobus
    Some great points made above and completely agree that winning AND losing are an important experience for children's long term development both in sport and in life. I think the best way to get parents/coaches to understand this is to ask the question to the children. After all it is their game! In my experience of asking this to children, they say having fun and playing with friends. One thing we have to remember, sport is about trying to tactical out maneuver an opponent(s). To try and beat them, so their is already a competitive element to sport, we do not need to add anymore to it. As through playing their chosen game they will learn how to play when tied, losing and winning. This all forms part of their learning journey.
  • pippaglen

    I life itself there is always going to be an element of winning and loosing, whether it's, stock and shares ,  general election, your favourite football club / sports club, the class in school that has had all 30 pupils turn up for a whole term. All this is an element of winning and loosing.  If we take this out of sports then what would be the point of sport apart from getting fit!

    Giving children the drive and determination, to take part in winning or loosing in life is far better then not have had experienced it at all and then later in life not understand the meaning of winning and loosing.  

    Today I was coaching under11 basketball session.   We did a few fun defence drills,  put the players into 3 small teams  then into a basketball game,  the players really enjoyed this and at the end not one of those children asked me what was the score at the end  why? 

  • PaulT

    Is winning and losing not what often makes sport/games/activities fun and enjoyable!

  • robertkmaaye
    On 21/05/15 10:20 AM, Paul Thompson said:

    Is winning and losing not what often makes sport/games/activities fun and enjoyable!

    Thought this might interest you Paul. According to some research in America, where children were asked what fun meant for them, there were 81 different explanations...winning was 48th on the list!

    Interesting blog by Paul Cammarata on ‘Winning vs Development’ sheds more light on this. http://www.cantpasscantplay.com/blog/2015/5/11/winning-vs-development

  • garyfowler

    I think for many (frequently parents .... and the kids of those parents) confuse competition and score keeping.

    I atteneded a meeting a few years back between a local league that was insistant on posting scores and a NGB that wouldnt back the league due to this. The league was insistent that people wanted this!

    I raised my hand and asked how many kids as opposed to adults they had posed this question to and was met with a lengthy silence. I then asked them how many kids they think rush home to hop online and check the league tables. Again ... silence.

    The majority of kids are naturally competetive and they will have a fair idea of how a game has gone, but posting and reporting wins, losses, scores etc especially at the age discussed has little impact other than on the ego of parents and coaches.

    Fun and competion do not have to be mutually exclusive but winning over fun is a whole different matter.


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