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MissAusten's avatar

How competitive should sports be for young children?

Asked by MissAusten (16132points) September 15th, 2010

My 7 year old (second grader) plays soccer. He has practice once a week, and a game once a week. The teams are made up of kids the same age, no tryouts. Everyone who signs up plays an equal amount of time in the games. They don’t even have goalies yet. My son has fun playing with his friends and running around, but doesn’t care much about the game itself.

This is his second year of soccer, and all of a sudden it seems much more competitive. The coaches take it very seriously (our coaches and the coaches I’ve seen on other teams). It’s almost painful to watch the practices and games because of the huge difference in skill and interest among the kids. Some are very competitive and clearly practice a lot. Some have no clue what they’re doing and become easily distracted, which clearly frustrates the coaches.

I’m not talking about middle school or high school sports. Just littler kids, like early grade school. Is it too early for the kids to be focused on winning and figuring out who is “best,” or should it still be all about having fun and learning?

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11 Answers

sleepdoc's avatar

I have a kid about the same age. As long as the kids have fun and learn something about the game I think that is the most important at this age. Once they get a bit older than this you will see some leagues start to seperate out into travel or competition clubs and then rec teams. Some coaches are trying to prime players for this. That is where the attitude sometimes comes from and sometimes they are have just lost focus.

WestRiverrat's avatar

It should be mostly about having fun and getting exersize. Time enough later to make it competitive.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree that it should mostly be for fun, but one thing to think about is some of these kids may have already been playing for years now. My son is 8 and started out with t-ball when he was 4 (this Spring will be his 6th season playing sports). So when you have a kid or a group of kids that started playing together years ago, their skills and attitudes develop together over time. So then a child that is just entering into the sport may be at a different level and that can start to lead to competition on its own.

TexasDude's avatar

Coaches and parents should work to strike a balance. Kids like competition and thrive off of it, but they are also there to have fun and don’t need to be abused either.

So on one end of the spectrum, you have youth sports leagues that don’t keep score and everyone gets a hug at the end, and at the other you have parents tearing their shirts off and drunkenly kicking each others’ asses.

The middle ground seems preferable to everyone.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Do they have skill level sections anymore? When I played soccer (from 7 or 8 till I was about 14 or 15), we had 3 sections based on skill levels. 3 was the lowest, 2 above that and 1 was the hardest most competitive.

MissAusten's avatar

@tragiclikebowie At this age, they don’t have skill levels.

Later on, I’m not sure when, they have the travel teams that kids try out for and the rec teams which, I assume, are more for fun.

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Ours seems to be in the middle. They do keep score at the games, but there’s no semifinals or finals to determine the number one team. Last year all of the kids got a medal for participating (they didn’t play official games, just practiced skills and had a short scrimmage at the end of each practice), and this year will probably be the same. I’m sure by the time the kids get to upper middle school and high school, the competition will be fierce. I’ve been told that for a kid to have any chance of making the high school football team, for example, they have to start in kindergarten!

Thanks for the input! I wanted to make sure I wasn’t off in my expectations of soccer so far. It’s very early in the season, since they’ve only had one game. A lot of the kids don’t understand the different positions yet, or why they can’t just run after the ball in one big pack. My son tends to get distracted during the games, when he’s in his position at one end of the field and all the action is at the other end. I was very impressed with him tonight, when he not only stayed where he was supposed to, but managed to kick the soccer ball to another kid on his team when it suddenly came flying toward him down the field. I’m also kind of a jerk for being glad there are at least two kids on his team that are more clueless than he is.

This is his second year of soccer. In our town, kids have to be in kindergarten to sign up for the rec teams. My youngest, in kindergarten, started this year. I figure as long as both boys are having fun, they’ll stick with it.


With the exception of swimming, I have never liked sports. To make young children compete against each other in sports might make them learn about teamship and cameraderie, but what’s the point of winning if parents are not even teaching their young kids about respect, manners, and how to treat others with kindness and humility? We live in such a competitive world that most kids these days grow up selfish and disrespectful. Without a firm grounding of morals, there is no point involving young children in competitive sports.

MissAusten's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES I agree. When my son has a hard time paying attention during practice, I remind him that his team needs him and he can’t be there for them if he’s not focused on what he’s supposed to be doing. I do want him to learn more about working with others and being part of a team. All three of my kids are very strong-willed and independent. Cooperating with others is not a strong point for them, but sports seems to really help with that.

weeveeship's avatar

Kids should learn that winning takes hard work and skill. So, competition in and of itself is not a bad thing.

However, each child’s potential is different. Some might get goals all the time, but some might be lucky if they get even one goal in their lifetimes. This does not necessarily mean that one is more hardworking than the other. It is just a matter of talent.

I think that any league where the competition has escalated to verbal abuse, violence, and incivility would not be a place for kids. It is one thing for a coach to push players to win. It is a different thing if the coach calls the kids little #*($%s or slap them or subject them to “cruel and unusual punishments.”

Games should be fun, not work or prison.

Nullo's avatar

Oh, this sounds familiar.
Competitive sports should be competitive, or else there is no point. That said, it’s important to make sure that it’s the kids competing and not the adults.
Like your son, I wasn’t very competitive either, and ended up quitting by the fourth year when my teammates and coach suddenly became less amiable about the whole thing. My first year in the AYSO was what it all should have been: the teams were effectively randomized from the start. But by the next season, we all had profiles, and all of the good kids were grouped into teams and all of the weaker teams became platforms on which to parade their greatness.
My team won a couple games in the first year, but Teams 2 and 3 and 4 lost every single match. Then the coach for Team 4 started pouring on pressure for us to do better, and it stopped being fun, so I quit.

I always got a trophy at the end of the season, but after the first time or two, it felt kind of hollow. But when I took 2nd place at the Cub Scouts’ pinewood derby, that meant something.

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