Winning Isn’t Everything

Use games to get kids back on the field

By Pete McCall

The desire to win permeates much of what human beings do. Most of us want to be recognized for accomplishments at work. Many want to be the best moms and dads, have the cleanest house, and keep the best yard on the block. The majority wants to win at everything. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate well with kids. Oftentimes, it doesn’t translate at all. 

Get A Grip On What Kids Want

Recent data released by the nonprofit arm of Tampa-based i9 Sports state about 84 percent of kids (ages 8 to 14) surveyed said they quit or wanted to quit their youth-sports team because it wasn’t fun, their teammates were mean, or scheduled practices interfered with other activities. 

(© Can Stock Photo Inc. / zurijeta

About 31 percent wished adults weren’t watching their games–mostly because they yell too much, they’re distracting, they make players nervous, or they put too much pressure on kids to play better and win. 

Numerous social and psychological studies–two of which were conducted by the University of Florida Family Youth and Community Services division and the New York University Child Study Center–have found the benefits of team sports range from better appreciation and respect for others to improved critical-thinking skills. The Centers for Disease Control has also stated sports plays a large part in eliminating the childhood obesity epidemic. 

There is nothing stated that kids have to win to obtain these benefits. 

Listening to what kids want may be the best way to keep them on the field. Here’s a rundown of the i9 survey: 

  • Kids just want to have fun. The number-one reason they play sports is because it’s fun (56 percent).
  • Winning isn’t everything. Even if their team loses, 63 percent of kids say they still have a good time.
  • Video games are better. Forty-two percent of kids say they would rather play video games than participate in sports because they’re more fun (75 percent); sports are too competitive (28 percent); their coach doesn’t let them play (20 percent); and they feel too much pressure to win (17 percent).
  • Fighting isn’t fun. One in five children has witnessed a physical fight between players, and 59 percent have seen a verbal argument between players.
  • No one likes to be called a loser. Sixty-one percent of kids say their teammates have been called a “not-so-nice” name while playing sports. 

    Photo Courtesy American Council on Exercise


Sifting through these statistics reveals kids often lose interest when the competition gets too serious. They’d rather be getting exercise through fun, activity-oriented games–not drills. And they may be on to something. 

Fitness For Fun

Fitness-based games can help with decision-making and cognitive function, according to a study conducted at theUniversityofIllinoisat Urbana-Champaign. Researchers found that with 30-minute treadmill sessions among young adults and 20 minutes among children, cognition improved by 5 to 10 percent. 

Try incorporating games into youth-sports practices by dedicating time at least once per week, starting with one of the games below. 

Robin Hood

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