Friday, November 12, 2010


Playing sports provides you with many benefits including fun, physical exercise, competition, and an outlet to express yourself. When you get together with your friends in the backyard or driveway for a pickup game, you probably also enjoy the camaraderie—the warm feeling of good fellowship we get when we share an experience with others. To varying degrees, most of us take pleasure in this sense of community.

In both individual and team sports, pickup or organized, you will find many opportunities to be part of an enjoyable shared experience. In some cases you will find others that share the same passion for your sport—who enjoy its beauty and flow, competing to win, or the challenge of testing one’s abilities against personal limits or some standard of performance. With these individuals you often find friendship based on this common bond. In other instances, casual or less skilled players may have a limited interest in playing, but do so mainly because they enjoy being part of a group.

In team sports, your teammates share the experience with you. In games with your friends, everybody enjoys the shared friendly competition. But even in more serious competitive situations, with opponents you do not know, there is often a mutual respect based on everyone’s shared passion and enjoyment of the sport. You and your opponent are both part of the same community.

Individual sports also provide an opportunity for community—each competitor respectful of the other’s similar passion and commitment. Individual competitors can even find a sense of team between each other in certain situations. For example, two competitive tennis players representing rival schools may find themselves supporting and rooting for each other in a distant tournament.

In team sports, try to minimize internal cliques (i.e., small groups) and their often destructive effect on the chemistry of your team. Find and promote shared common ground with all of your teammates. If you’re in a position to lead, try to recognize potential disruptions within your team before they grow and take hold. A key word from you to another player may be all that’s needed to short-circuit a potential problem.

As you grow older, and begin to experience more injuries or responsibilities that take you away from your game, you will come to value the communal aspect of sports even more. In your pursuit of excellence, always try to respect your teammates, opponents and the game itself. Recognize and appreciate that you are all part of the same community, and that your sport makes the reward of this shared experience possible.

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

I have done years of research in the research of youth sports. Probably as much as some researchers have. I have also coached football for many years with great success. What I mean by success is that I have winning teams with happy parents for what I accomplished with their kid's and every kid gets to play the entire game.

The local youth rec. football league in our town has a minimum playing time rule that each kid will play the whole game on either offense or defense. It's a good rule and it works. There is 1200 kid's in this program and have yet to hear one kid or parent ever complain about this rule.Having coached in this league. I have come to realize that to have any success in this type of program,you have to.... 1. Know your sport and be knowledgeable. 2. Have your kids playing in a position that fits their skill. 3. And most importantly, spend the majority of your time working with and coaching up your less talented or less developed kids. That's where the skill as a coach comes in to play. In this type of system it doesn't take long to spot a bad coach. It takes patience and creativity - which are important qualities that a coach should possess if they are to be around kids.At junior high and high school level it should be at least one quarter of minimum playing time. There is no chance of convincing me that minimum playing time for all sports not only would benefit sports as a whole - but also creates a culture that says - We care about kids and we care about their emotional needs. They are only young once and it doesn't last long, so they should be able to enjoy playing competitive sports even if they aren't the best athletes. They will remember it - and when we get old and bound to a wheelchair they won't take it out on us for benching them 40 years ago.

I have recently written an article advocating minimum playing time for all sports from rec. leagues through high school and challenged the Indiana High School Athletic Association (ISHAA) as to (who would not benefit from such a rule and why would they not benefit ? ) I know I will never get an answer from them, but if anyone disagrees with me on this one, go ahead, throw yourself out there.

If every team in a rec.league or school sports program had minimum playing time rules such as this league does, then all teams should be on an equal playing field. Right ? Few people see it that way. But I don't mind fighting for it. I think of it like this - Its like being Rocky in the late rounds of a heavy weight title fight and my eyes are swollen shut- I can't hardly see and I'm taking the beat down of a life time but I still keep swinging.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good fight Anon.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Thanks for your thoughts on what's important in creating a great youth sports experience for every child!

In the YMCA youth basketball programs in which I usually coach, the younger ages emphasize equal time for everyone while the middle school leagues require that every player sit at least one quarter. As you pointed out, these participation constraints provide a fun and creative challenge for a coach. Win/Loss success requires that the beginners and less talented players be "coached up". Assuming that a league's teams are reasonably balanced at the most important positions, it's the improvement of these beginners over the course of the season that often makes the difference. As do you, I get great satisfaction when a child I'm coaching suddenly realizes that they can play the game, compete, and be an integral part of a shared team experience.

I don't want to cause any more swelling in that bad eye of yours, but I probably disagree with your position on minimum playing time at the high school varsity level. At this higher level of competitive play, kids are discovering the sports in which they are both proficient and passionate about--and the ones in which they are not. This strikes me as part of a natural "weaning" process that we all go through as we become adults (at least in America). Participation in organized activities at the higher levels is earned. Alternative organized activities (intramurals, CYO, etc.) should still be available to those who are dissatisfied with their role on a varsity team.

Notwithstanding the importance of discussing the participation issue in organized sports, my biggest disappointment in youth sports today is the misguided emphasis we place on adult-run organized sports at the expense of self-directed play (e.g. pickup games). In my opinion, the love of sports is more likely rooted in the latter, where the play itself is the reward. And it's this sense of joy that will drive continued participation as adults--maybe even 40 years later (if our knees hold up).

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