Let’s end the year with Jeff Walz. Who’s he? Walz is the head coach of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team.
Walz was frustrated after a six-point loss to the University of Maryland this month and said a few things about youth sports.
Walz told reporters: “Right now, the generation of kids that are coming through, everybody gets a . . . trophy, okay? You finish last, you come home with a trophy.” The coach added: “What’s that teaching kids? It’s okay to lose . . . I mean, not to be too blunt, but you’re a loser.”
I have written about kids getting trophies no matter how they play and what their team’s record is. When I have visited schools, I have asked lots of kids about getting trophies.
I think it’s okay to give everyone a trophy or a certificate for participating on a team — up to 8 or 10 years old. But kids are smart. After a while, they realize that if everyone gets a trophy, it isn’t much of a prize.
Still, I don’t think that kids getting too many trophies is a big problem in youth sports. The big problem is that, according to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of young athletes stop playing organized sports by age 13.
Most kids quit playing because the games and practices are no longer fun. Also, the pressure to win and teams that take only the best players send the message to most kids that they are not good enough to play.
That needs to stop. Everyone (coaches, kids and parents) needs to change the goals of youth sports. We have to stop trying to find a few elite athletes — the kind who play for Walz and other big-time college coaches — and start to encourage as many kids as possible to stay active and to keep playing sports.
To do that, we don’t need more trophies, more travel teams or more expensive equipment. And we don’t need coaches who act as if winning a basketball game is the most important thing in the world.
Instead, we need to put more fun back in youth sports. Or, in the words of the holiday season, more joy.
The joy of playing. The joy of competing. The joy of being part of a team.
Something to wish for as we enter a new year.
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 21 sports books on baseball, basketball, football and soccer for kids ages 7 to 12.