Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Michael Josephson: Kids like to win; adults need to win

  Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.

  Professional sports and even highly competitive intercollegiate sports seem irreversibly addicted to the idea that sports are basically a business and that the only thing that makes sports profitable is winning. And if that means we have to tolerate egocentric self-indulgent showboating or whining, violence or even cheating, so be it. Clearly these attitudes have invaded youth sports as well. Everywhere we see that a lot of adults — both coaches and parents — need to grow up and realize the game is not about either their egos or ambitions.

  The appropriate mission of youth sports is to provide kids with a safe environment in which they can have fun, build character, learn to practice sportsmanship, and develop skills and traits that will help them become responsible citizens and live happy, healthy lives. Striving to win is an important aspect of competition and teaching kids how to compete effectively and honorably is important, but youth sports is not primarily about winning; it’s about trying to win and learning through effort and improvement.

  Of course winning is fun and kids like to win, but it’s the adults who distort the experience because of their need to win. No matter how much we try, only a few youngsters will move beyond high school sports, and an even tinier percentage will make a living from athletics. But when youth sports are handled appropriately, every participant can build positive life skills and gain lifelong memories from the pursuit of victory with honor.

  Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the Capital City Free Press on November 19, 2011.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

  This article was published by the Josephson Institute.

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