All credit goes to the original article found here: LINK.

When vigorously promoted competition prematurely intrudes on play, it diverts the attention of the children from their still growing bodies. It robs them of the space they need to explore their strengths, their weaknesses, their endurance, their agility, their -capacity to think in movement in the immediacy of the moment, their kinetic ingenuity, and so on. It catapults them beyond their years and their abilities, deflecting them from testing their possibilities and recognising their limitations in relatively risk-free ways. It shunts their attention from the care and survival of others in concert with their own to a quest for dominance over others. It focuses attention on something altogether different, winning. (The Roots of Morality- Maxine Sheets-Johnstone)

It is an ongoing debate within many governing bodies at the moment. The competitive environment that our young children find themselves in when they get involved in organised sport is being forensically examined and laid bare for all who want to see. It is being laid bare for a reason- It seems that there is much within these adult organised competitive systems that no longer meet the needs of the child in sport.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in an effort to advance a more unified and evidence informed approach to youth athlete development organised a consensus meeting of experts in the field in November 2014.They critically evaluated the current state of science and practice of youth athlete development. According to the IOC the ‘culture’ of specific sports and youth sports in general, has become disproportionately both adult and media centred. (You can read my analysis of the IOC consensus statement here)

The Swedish Football Association has this week taken the decision to no longer have series/cup winners in competitions for teams with players up to 12 years, a decision that will take effect from 1 January 2017. There has been some interesting fall out and discussions from this decision. As the debate escalates I ask the question:

Why are we talking about winning or losing when we should be talking about learning?

I guess the biggest job of work is to help people to understand and get comfortable with the ultimate coaching paradox: the more we talk about learning stuff and the less we talk about winning stuff, the better we get at developing excellence and the more likely we are to win. . (Al Smith- https://myfastestmile.com/)

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”- even better imagine if winning or losing were both considered equally important learning opportunities.The facilitation of learning in our young players training and competitive environment should be our priority. Perhaps then winning and losing can be understood within the context of the child in sport so that it can be dealt with and experienced appropriately. This of course in many cases means an adjustment to the adult mind-set.

“It is the societal expectation through professional sport that has screwed up the focus of learning and development of children in sport”- Lynn Kidman

What is required here (and seems to be absent from the “fall-out” debate) is the education of adults with regard to the child in sport. Kids should compete, compete a lot but compete in their way. We need to place their physical and emotional needs first. This is echoed by Urban Hammar (Head of Coach Education at the Swedish FA) when speaking about the Swedish FA’s new coach education plan. “Children and young people who devote themselves heart and soul to football deserves responsible and knowledgeable leaders- We have high goals. A children’s rights perspective and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are the basis for the wording in our curriculum”

Why are we talking about winning or losing when we should be talking about learning?