I asked my eight year old daughter if she cared if she won or lost her soccer games. Without hesitation she responded, "Sometimes." As her parents, we have struggled with how much to push and emphasize sports, especially the game she says she "lives for." Just recently, my wife and I have discussed how competitive the other teams have gotten at this age. We've learned that other teams are training twice a week and playing in one to two winter leagues and mini-tournaments. This, mind you, is in the off-season.
Being in the business youth sports, my daughter's answer has given me pause on how to help her and how to guide other parents in their own journey. It's hard for me to remember what it was like to be eight years old, but I do remember winning was the important thing, not how I played the game. I cared a lot about winning, but was fortunate also to win a lot. But I am not my daughter.
Although, I could make the case that soccer would be more fun if my daughter and her friends had better skills or even won a few more games, I am going to do my best to ask better questions and listen more to her.
Personally, I have agonized over watching her team play when they are intimidated by a more aggressive or talented team. One anecdote, I started doing cheers on the sideline when the team went down 0-5 this past winter session, that is winter session one of two. "Be Aggressive, Be-Be Aggressive!", a cheer I learned from watching my brother play high school ball and the good looking cheerleaders. Back to the eight year old soccer game, I got the girls attention, but it didn't change anyone's behavior except my own. I was slightly embarrassed, but I thought I could make an impact on a group of girls whose motivations I didn't really know. Thinking back, I do wonder what they were thinking when one of the dads on the sideline starting doing cheers.
At this age, it seems, the fun of soccer is about being with her friends and having a chance to run and play. I guess that I am the one is learning the lesson tonight. I just hope that I remember it when our team goes down 0-5 again.