Parents, Coaches and Athletes – The Imperfection of Youth Sports

One of the most difficult challenges I had as a coach was to explain to my athletes about officials being human and that not all decisions in a game or meet would be correct. It was easy to tell them that the judges would be wrong sometimes but I also felt it a duty to make sure the children still respected and believed in those officials.

I got an early dose of “sports are imperfect” when I was about 7 when I slid into 2nd base and was tagged out. I looked up and the umpire called me safe. My mind was extremely confused. I wish sports were perfect because the human side of it does spoil things a little. It is difficult for parents and coaches to want a child to succeed so much and then an incorrect score is flashed or an out sign is given. But the bigger picture is more important than an extra run or a 9.1 instead of an 8.9.

That bigger picture is about handling life. We all know life isn’t perfect. Husbands? New puppies? The imperfection of sports gives us another opportunity to talk about what will face these children later, in more serious and important areas of their life. Much sadness in life comes from complaining about and harping on other people’s imperfections. Is it worth it when we were all born imperfect?

My way of teaching my athletes about the evaluation of their performance was to say “at the end of your routine there are 2 people who matter most in the evaluation of what you just did, you and me, your coach.” Regardless of the score that was about to be flashed, my gymnasts finished their routine and then looked at me for the “approving nod” or the slightly tilted head with a raised eyebrow. Then we talked at the 1st opportunity. A partnership of 2 people who were giving it their all to improve.

The vast majority of officials are trying their best to do a great job. I feel for a judge who has sat there and judged 100 routines a day and they are under the microscope for a tenth of a point. That isn’t fair and that isn’t reasonable.

The adults involved in youth sports have an obligation to send the right messages about the bigger picture to our very impressionable children. Sports are an incredible laboratory of learning, even in their imperfection. Your thoughts? Tom Burgdorf Gymnet Sports on Facebook

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