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Being a good sport is great, but so is competition

Published 6:04pm Saturday, August 7, 2010

Growing up, I made everything a contest.

I was the most disciplined kid in elementary school Physical Education, not because my dad was the teacher, but because if I didn’t win in kickball, someone was going to hear about it.

I was a poor sport all the way through junior high, but I loved to win. Was there anything wrong with that?

Yes.

But not every fifth-grader is like I was.

Sometimes, young athletes need to play for something other than just the satisfation of playing the game. Sports are meant to be fun, and as we get older that becomes especially true, but if we want our youth to improve, we need them to want to win.

The new youth fooball program that begins this fall, the one that plots Hawthorne students against Lakeville ones and so on and so forth, is a great step towards reigniting the competitive flame for Albert Lea football.

Playing basketball in backyards and in parks as a kid, I spent most of my energy setting up leagues, assigning different players to home courts based on where they lived.

I played for Valley, my friend played for Lakeview and another for Eastgate.

We were to have matching jersey, different coaches and even warm-up music.

Obviously, my fantasy league never left the ground, but it got us excited about playing because we’d be competing.

Every child is a different size and at a different skill level, especially in grade school, but that doesn’t mean we should try and level the playing field by mixing skill levels and offering no incentive to win.

In upper elementary levels, not everyone should get equal playing time and there should be an ‘A’ and ‘B’ team (especially a ‘B’ team).

That gives every child the opportunity to improve at their own level and the chance to play long enough for their skills and bodies to catch up with those ahead of them.

I applaud the Grizzles, Family Y and high school football program for giving kids the chance to compete for pride for the first time since the 1980s.

  1. Jeremy Corey-Gruenes

    I agree. The new youth football program is a great idea. Every great high school program is supported by a strong youth program. The small school district I attended had a strong football tradition, and the varsity coach led the program for fifth and sixth graders on Saturday mornings because he knew how valuable the early start was for the longterm success of his high school program.