Apr 26, 2011 • 5 min read
Challenging players to always compete is a lot to ask of young athletes who just want to have fun, so how do you do that? By feeding their competitive appetites with a healthy and balanced diet of fun and competitive activities. I incorporate winning and losing into the process but I make sure my players know that I value passion over victories.
And because I coach baseball in a developmental league, I prioritize correctness. But a commitment to correctness can be tedious. So I assign competitive stakes to the learning exercises so that correctness pays off for the players in the form of a well earned victory or a well fought defeat. Without a competitive mindset, it’s difficult to engage, to care, or to strive to improve. Correctness leads to improvement, improvement leads to success, and success leads to satisfaction. Competition drives the process.
My healthy and balanced diet of competitions provides plenty of opportunities for all of my players to outdo something: a new challenge, a previous individual or team best, the clock, an opposing group, a well-matched teammate. No one wins them all. And the only way to lose them all is by failing to ever engage, by failing to compete.
It’s important to experience competition in all its forms: us against them, me against you, me against me, me against the clock. And to confront the unavoidable range of emotionally charged features inherent in all competition: collaboration & loneliness, satisfaction & failure, urgency & composure, struggle & recovery. I structure the challenges so that the win itself feels less important than the pursuit of the win. I don’t expect my players not to want to win. I know they want to win; that’s normal. I just don’t want them focused only on something they can’t entirely control.
Here is a sample set of competitive challenges from a recent baseball practice (12 players) where competition played out in various forms:
Do you have competitive drills that you use that keep players engaged in learning? Do you find the winning and losing of these competitions make success and failure more manageable for young players on game day?
Bruce Reed is a youth sports coach, writer, educator, and father of two. He has coached high school and Little League baseball, youth soccer, basketball, and football and is currently the regional director of Compass Prep.