By Randy Traeger
In this era when the post modern relative media bombards today’s youth with iniquitous images and sounds, sports stand out as an important counteractive tool to teach virtue. Our kids are feeding their minds out of the media’s garbage can of content. No wonder so many of them are sick. Due to the “charismatic” nature of sports, coaches (more than teachers, and even parents) have the undivided attention of their players. Having this attention places a great responsibility on the coach to use it for some greater good. Lets use it to teach our players how to be virtuous. In many ways sports should be considered the most important tool in our modern society for teaching virtue to our youth.
It’s time to redefine the purpose of sport.
Visit any youth sporting event and you will typically find numerous examples of all the wrong reasons why players, coaches, and parents participate in sports. Players throwing temper tantrums, coaches belittling players, parents screaming at umpires for making the wrong call. In the last few years, irate parents and fans have even taken to physically assaulting coaches and referees. In the 8 to 13 year old age group, 70% of kids drop out of organized sports after the first year. That's a high number, so something is definitely wrong. A lot of time it's misguided player expectations, abusive coaching practices, or excess pressure placed on the player by the parents."
There has arisen an epidemic of participating in sports for “all the wrong reasons”.
Players: participating because their parents are forcing them to play, to become more popular, to be a champion, to become a pro athlete, to get a college scholarship, to win at all costs, to get a girlfriend or boyfriend, or because today’s modern media tells them that in order to be a man they must be athletic.
Coaches: coaching for the money, coaching to stroke their own ego’s, coaching to satisfy some repressed frustration for failing to fulfill their own athletic career, coaching their own son or daughter so they can live vicariously through them, coaching their own son or daughter in order to push them towards a college scholarship or other recognition.
Parents: having their son or daughter participate because it is a cheap babysitting option, encouraging participation so they can live vicariously through their son or daughter, fulfillment of some dream of a college scholarship, recognition, or a professional career, to keep up with the “Joneses”, or so my son/daughter will be more popular.
These reasons are all misguided and usually lead to painful consequences.
It’s time to value virtue for what it really is - STRENGTH.
The purpose of sport should be to teach our youth virtue. This purpose needs to be made primary and not some secondary consequence or byproduct. Most coaches will tell you right away about all the side benefits of sports. But, why are these spiritual lessons always talked about like the second rate stepchild? Why can’t the life lessons learned in sports be the primary objective? Let’s reverse the roles and make things like ”having fun” and “staying in shape” the secondary byproducts of sports, with teaching virtue as our main objective.
The new prioritized purpose of sport:
*To use all youth sports activities primarily as a context to teach virtue:
*To teach our youth about virtuous concepts such as humility, faith, hope, love, courage, discipline, leadership, work ethic, empathy, thankfulness, and more.
*To teach our youth that just like training is essential for competition, so is doing schoolwork necessary to acquire knowledge needed in their future work or professional duties.
*To teach our youth about the need to surpass known physical capacities in order to obtain victory, as a life lesson about total devotion to the task undertaken.
*To teach our youth about continuing to compete when exhausted, as a life lesson about not getting discouraged in the pursuit of objectives in every day life.
*To teach our youth the importance of sacrificing personal interest for that of the team.
*To teach our youth about uniting wills for a common purpose which forms the attitude of solidarity, so badly needed in today’s individualistic, self centered life of consumerism.
*To teach our youth through friendly competition, a more brotherly vision in life as we exchange differing ideas with fellow man.
Finally, that our youth come to understand that lessons learned about virtue are the most important motivation in athletic contests, with victory only a by-product that should not create foolish pride, and defeat a reality of life that should not breed discouragement. We need to teach our kids in sport that just like in life, victory and defeat are both “impostors” and that reality lies somewhere between both.
While there are a number of physical, psychological, and social benefits that can be gained from youth sports participation, using sports to teach virtue will have the greatest redemptive impact on our society as a whole. However, virtue learning benefits through youth sports will not be guaranteed solely by agreement with the concept. Deliberate constructive programs need to be put in place and utilized to teach virtue through sports. Coaches, the responsibility to teach virtue through sport is too great to leave up to chance. Don’t the assistant coaches, players, and parents in your program deserve the very best? Evidence indicates that the relevance, depth and quality of a “virtue coaching program” is the key factor in maximizing positive effects.
Which “virtue coaching” curriculum are you using in your program?
We are using Sports Leader.