You can’t eliminate competition. You can, however, make sure that your own kids do not make winning a priority. When it comes to sports development, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise shows that young athletes are better off focusing on self-improvement than actually taking the trophy home.

The study involved 239 young athletes from ages 10 to 19 who finished the Youth Experiences Scale-2—a program that measures both positive and negative youth experiences. They also completed a caring climate scale, a sport motivation climate scale, and other measures that were deemed important for psychosocial development.

Results revealed that those who found themselves in more nurturing environments reaped more developmental benefits than those who were in an "ego climate" that had kids constantly comparing themselves to their teammates. It was hardly an environment that fostered unity.

While winning can boost the players’ confidence, coaches must still strike a balance between that goal and motivating children to do their best. Importance must be placed on developing life skills and character, which shape the kids’ future.

According to Daniel Gould, one of the authors of the study, "By teaching players to be responsible, communicate, lead and control their emotions, you will likely improve their performance. Coaches always talk about performing and having good character; the two ideals can co-exist."

Of course, the school coaches acting alone won’t cut it. The entire school as well as parents must be committed to this goal. At home, teach your kids what sports are all about. Don’t put too much importance on scoring a point or winning a game. Without these expectations pressuring your children, they’ll be more likely to focus on improving their game and getting along with their teammates.


For more on raising healthy kids, check these out:

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(Photo by tonygonz via Flickr Creative Commons)

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