Jeff Farris

"Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."

"If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?"

"Losing only teaches you how to lose."

"Americans play to win at all times. I wouldn't give a hoot for a man who lost and laughed."

America prides itself on all forms of competition and tracking wins and losses is an ingrained part of the nation's character. This winning attitude should be carried over into youth sports. However, without understanding what it is we are trying to win, we run the risk of losing and losing big.

Tracking wins and losses is easy when there are countable things like game outcomes. It becomes much harder when it comes to things such as fun, passion and skills progression. This sometimes leads parents and coaches to believe that winning in youth sports concerns game outcomes rather than life experiences.

The old adage that losing only teaches someone how to lose doesn't apply only to games. It applies to all areas of life such as learning, sportsmanship, friendship, teamwork and self-discipline, to name a few. If kids lose in these areas but win in games, then kids won't have much to show for their youth sports experience. However, if kids win in these areas but lose games, then their experiences will last a lifetime.

Professional sports, used as a role model for youth sports, can often produce disastrous results for a kid's long-term success. Youth sports are not a farm system for high school, college or professional sports. Youth sports are a farm team for business, politics, education, communities and families. Viewed in this manner, success and winning are all about building the best kids possible.

The chances of any child's playing college or professional sports are extremely slim. So, if winning is determined by this standard, most kids will end up as losers. If winning is determined by positive life lessons, then there is an opportunity for every kid to be a winner. And, there is an opportunity for every coach and parent to make a difference.

The popular saying that "Losing makes you a loser" may be true. But, its misuse in youth sports threatens to leave parents with kids who value the appearance of winning over true personal success. Parents have a huge role to play in helping their kids learn the right lessons from youth sports and use their youth experiences to become better business, community and family leaders. Winning is an important part of youth sports. But, parents must always keep focused on what their kids are trying to win. Keeping this perspective makes it much easier to see game outcomes as interesting but irrelevant.