Why parents need to create their own ‘medal ceremony’ at their kid’s sports tournaments

My youngest was involved with his team at a football tournament last weekend. I’m sure you’ve been to something similar – a 10am start, lots of teams, lots of games, lots of hanging about, an ice cream van and a 4pm finish! The reason I mention this is to draw your attention to what happened at the end of the day (when I won’t lie I was itching to get home!) The organisers had a presentation which went something like this…

First, every coach was presented with a medal as an acknowledgement of the time they give to their teams. A really nice touch. Next up were the players. Through their games each of the 8 teams were seeded into 1 of 4 different ‘finals’ based on the number of games they won and there was a runner up and winners medal for each ‘final’. I timed the whole thing and it took 20 minutes (like I said I was itching to get home!). There’s a lot of debate about whether it’s the right thing to do to have winners and losers in kids sport but the thing I want to get you thinking about is if your goal is to help young people learn from their experiences when competing in sport, would you use a valuable 20 minutes for a medal ceremony?

I wouldn’t because I don’t think what kids are being ‘rewarded’ for is specific enough to help them learn. Instead, here’s what I would do.

I would get each team to sit down with their coaches and parents (yes, I would include the parents, so they can understand more about what their child was focused on, what went well for them and how they can support what they commit to work on next) to ask the players their thoughts on the following 3 questions…

  1. What were we focusing on today?
  2. What went well for you and for the team?
  3. What could we do (as a team and as individuals) to be better next time?

I wasn’t watching closely enough and maybe some teams did this. Maybe. But if this didn’t happen, and we know reflection is a crucial part of the learning process, parents need to help their kids develop this skill. In a tournament setting like this it will be hard for kids not to focus on the outcome (the kids will know exactly how they ranked compared to the other teams!!) but use the questions above to create your own ‘medal ceremony’ to acknowledge progress in the areas they were most focused on and to make sure they commit to do something that will help them to be better next time.

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