Are We Raising Soft Kids Through Sports?

The Benefit of Sports for Kids

The statements below reflect the words and thoughts of the author Derrick Marrow alone. They may or may not reflect the opinion of, the editors, and/or other authors.
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Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out the way, I’m going to say it: we, as a community and as a country, are raising a new generation of soft kids. No, your teenager should not get a participation trophy. This is the reason why: life will not give you a participation trophy. You either get the job or you don’t. You either get the promotion or you don’t. You either pass the bar exam or you don’t. You can’t just show up, play in the dirt, and expect to be recognized. It doesn’t work like that. The real world doesn’t work like that.

The Washington Post published an article, which reported data collected by Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the article, Abel and Dietz estimated that only 27% of college graduates worked at a job that was closely related to their major. That means 3 out of 4 college graduates took a job in a field outside of the one they spent the last four years studying for. This was for schooling that they will spend the next 20 years paying off. Young adults are going into debt for a one in four chance at prospering through their educational dreams. However, that’s not what this story is about, so we can address this issue at another time. What this tells you is that only the top students out of a nationwide class for a particular major will cut it and land jobs in their field. To that end, in this type of job market, why would you want to take the competitiveness out of kids at an early age? Kids will need that competitive edge to make it to the top.

The Pew Research Center estimated that in the year 2014, 36% of 18-34 year old individuals who had not attained a bachelor’s degree were living with their parents. Among college graduates, in the same time frame, only 19% were living with their parents. What does this data tell you? One might say that it’s okay to want to strive to have goals, maybe, just maybe. Yes, there are various reasons for the decline in the working class and college educated individuals struggling to find jobs, but I might suggest that at least a portion of it starts when you are a child. You’re taught certain values as a child which follow you into your entire adult life. Parents can baby their kids, give them everything they want, and raise spoiled children that can’t fend for themselves. However, they shouldn’t wonder later why their children didn’t leave home. Again, I’m not suggesting that this is the reason in every case, but could it be an underlying reason in some? Can this explain why they can’t survive in the cruel world? This world is cruel, and it will eat you up and spit you out if you are not prepared. There is no arguing that point.

You’re probably asking, what does this have anything to do with sports?

Let’s start here. Parents get upset when a coach yells at their kid. Parents get involved because their child’s feelings were hurt about getting yelled at because they don’t yell in their homes, they talk it out. Those parents let their child quit. That child thinks that quitting is an appropriate solution to problems. These are life lessons that are being taught here. Sports parents and athletes, let me tell you a secret: You shouldn’t be worried if a coach is yelling at you or your kid. You should be worried when a coach isn’t saying anything to you. What that means then is that the coach believes one of two things; you don’t have what it takes, or you’re not worth the effort. If you think that a coach yelling at your kid is the worst thing that will happen to them, then I have some swamp land in the middle of the ocean to sell you. Let your kid figure it out. You can’t come bailing them out every time life gets hard.

StockSnap_1CND62KS4MNow, I know you’re going to say ‘sports should be fun’. You’re right, sports are supposed to be fun, so play the game for the fun and for the joy of your sport. Play for the competition. Oh, wait–not for the competition. You see, the word “competition” has become a dirty word where it is most suited: in sports.  Some of you are going to ask, where’s the line, where? Where, and what is acceptable? I’ll tell you where it is. It’s where teams or individuals start to become competitive. In a competitive environment against other individuals, that person on the other team will try and destroy you if you’re not ready. Do you think climbing the corporate ladder, breaking glass ceilings, or playing those management games is going to be any less intense? Here’s the line. If a child is playing for fun—for instance, T-ball—then yes, every little kid should get a medal or trophy. This can build up their self-esteem. However, once they are in competitive leagues, and they start playing for championships—then no. Do you know what their trophy is? The jersey they wear that says they are a part of the team. If there is a goal to meet, then they must strive to reach the goal. They need to strive in order to get better. If they don’t reach the goal, what do you have? You have a teaching moment. The moment where you can talk about the work that is needed to reach their goals in life. The moment where they learn nothing will be handed to them in life.

Do you know what fun is?

Winning is fun. Losing sucks, especially when you care and when you put in all the work. Parents, you cannot protect them from it. It’s like heartbreak. Yes, you wish they never go through it, but it’s something that they have to go through in order to learn how to get through it. Every one of us has to learn how to deal with defeat and setback. It’s part of the process of growing and maturing. Although, you should never let yourself or child become okay with losing. There is a difference between being okay with losing and being a gracious loser. Again, you have to go through it, feel the emotion of it to figure it out. That’s life. Being okay with losing is also one of those traits that kids will carry on with them into their adult lives. It’s not one of those traits that will take you far in life. You all know those types of people. Now, don’t take my words out of context here. I am not saying be a poor sport. None of us win at everything. That’s the great thing about sports; it teaches you so many lessons. The first is going to be how to deal with loss and disappointment.  The second is how to respond and how to work at being the best after a loss.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons in playing sports that I carry with me daily in life: hard work, sacrifice, being a teammate, coping skills, and preparation. Most of all, I learned that if I wanted to start—if I had that position—then I had to get better.

As parents, you challenge your children in the classroom, academically. Yet, when it comes to sports, it’s a different equation. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. You better prepare your child to compete, as I hope you were.


About Derrick Marrow 13 Articles
Nothing more powerful on the face of the earth than Simple Words!


  1. Yes, thank you for saying this. People often think it’s all or nothing — either be all about winning; or like you said, don’t say the “c” word. I believe there needs to be a balance between the fun and the winning and the shiny stuff, and the grit and perseverance and humility and emotional/social intelligence. Foster the want to win, but at the same time cultivate all the inner qualities that matter once you hit the big league of real life. We can have both. People need to realize. Well said!

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