My husband is a juniors rugby coach.
He moulds young minds. He passes on his years of experience playing the sport he loves. He teaches how to tackle safely and effectively. How to work as a team. And, just as importantly, how to lose.
He gives of his time freely because he can see the huge benefits it brings to the young people in his charge.
And what’s so great for my son (and all his team mates) is that they have another two coaches who are exactly the same.
Over the years we’ve done the ‘for every try you score I’ll give you £1 (or equivalent reward). We’ve all been there.
Not so much for the glory of winning, but to give your player that little added incentive to dig a little deeper. Keep going. Discover great wells of determination.
But we don’t do that any more, and here’s a perfect example of why. Maybe it will help you reevaluate how you reward your children too?
A couple of weeks ago the boys faced a tough fixture. They were travelling to play one of the Big Clubs. One of those clubs swimming with so many players in each age group, they could field about four teams. We have one. And about two subs.
On top of this another local giant asked if their Under 11s could also come along and play in a three-way fixture. Two giants; our minnows.
Our boys were really apprehensive. They smelt defeat.
Their coaches told them to dig deep, think about what they’ve been coached and play as a team.
They told them they believed in them and that they had what it takes to win – each and every one of them – no matter what the odds said.
They told them to go out there and enjoy themselves.
The boys won both matches. They showed a grit and determination that made every parent there proud.
And it cost us nothing!
But here’s the thing.
Had there been rewards on offer for tries scored, what about the boy who worked his guts out in the scrum to feed the ball out?
What about the lad whose tackles keep the opposition away from the try line?
What about the player who worked his legs off, making a difference, but was no where near the try line?
They all had a fantastic game. But they wouldn’t have earned one of those £1s. And I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have felt the warmth of success once they came off the pitch.
Basing rewards on one criteria – in this instance scoring tries – won’t make kids feel successful.
Many kids play positions which mean they’ll never get a shot at scoring. Yet they turn up every Sunday, play hard and do as their coaches ask.
Some kids are faster, more agile, but they wouldn’t be running down the wing with that ball unless the rest of team made it possible and cleared the way.
On Sunday, their coaches showed that rewarding effort, determination and teamwork is a far greater ‘carrot’.
As far as I’m concerned, sport is teaching my kids vital life skills that will help them in adulthood. How many tries scored won’t matter a jot. The fact that they can work as a team, be respectful, keep their heads up in the face of difficulties – those are the scoresheets I want them to feature big on!
By the way, I overheard one of the other coaches talking to his team after we had beaten them and tear his players off a strip. They all stood there with their heads down and wandered off dejected and uninspired.
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