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The Secret to Better Competitors

By Joe Crispin, 07/09/18, 9:15AM EDT

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I usually like to find a creative way to introduce a chapter or blog post, but not so today. Let's jump right to the point:

One of the keys to creating better competitors is to compete more where you forget the score.  

I spend a great deal of time thinking about youth sports, but I spend much, much more time watching and evaluating high school and college athletes. At the end of the day, I am not satisfied with what I am seeing. For all the resources we put into developing youth basketball players, I think we should have more. And I know I am not alone. 

Where I probably differ with many, however, is that I believe one of our biggest issues is that games, real games with referees and coaches and scoreboards and spectators, are no longer special. In virtually any sport. From a personal perspective, one of my biggest concerns for my sons is that they will have too many opportunities to play games.

Of course, this doesn't mean that I don't want them to compete or to play. No. It's just that I want them to compete in the environments where score gets lost in the fun and flow of play. 

You know what I mean right? There are places of play where the kids forget to keep score. They are just playing. Trying new things. And often goofing around. On the surface of things, the play may not seem to be beneficial. We think we should step in and coach to make it more productive. But this is a huge mistake. 

There are so many things going on beneath the surface of any game. One of the most important is emotional. There are certain kinds of play that energize you. Types of play that though physical, do not exhaust you at all. Because they are free. Played on their own terms. Not much of anything really on the line. 

But then there are places of play with scoreboards and standings and coaches and stats. These are radically different emotionally. They can energize, but not in the same way. These are real games and if played often enough, they will take a real toll. They require something more from you, something you cannot give every night. Or even 3-4 times a weekend. 

It is not universally true, but it is becoming increasingly true by the day that our kids need more of the first kind of play and less of the second. More games and more pressure isn't better. It doesn't turn you into a competitor. In fact, it might make you worse. You just can't keep up the pace of competition emotionally. Sooner or later, it is just another game. 

Ask yourself:  How many opportunities do our kids have to play where they can lose track of the score? It matters more than you think.