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Is Average Good Enough?

Recently, I had a conversation with a youth sports coach about the variety of differences in talent and abilities of the 6th grade boys he has been coaching in baseball. He has been their recreational coach since the boys were in 1st grade. He told me that it has been a very frustrating summer for him and his team. The team hasn’t achieved the goals they had set. In fact, they have had a losing season after winning the championship last year. He shared with me that this was the first year there became a glaring difference in the talent levels of the boys. Several of the boys have improved dramatically, while others have stayed at the same level as last year. Many of the boys who have gotten better have spent a lot of time taking private lessons throughout the winter as well as during the season from retired Major League players. The fathers of three of these boys have told the coach that they will probably try out this fall for a competitive team, as they all believe their sons are more talented than the others and want to play at a higher level. One of the fathers even mentioned that he believes his son is talented enough to play in high school and even college. The coach told me that this father is the pushiest parent on the team and is always the most vocal during the games. He stated that this parent was very frustrated with most of the other players because they hadn’t put in the extra time to get better beyond the normal practices.  I asked the coach if he felt the boys had had fun playing this year, even though they had a losing season. He told me that the boys who appeared to have the most fun, were the ones who weren’t pushed by their parents and just appeared to enjoy being on the team. I thought deeply about this discussion and began to wonder just how good is good enough? One of my frustrations as a sport psychologist, is that it appears we are pushing our kids at younger and younger ages to be involved in sports, not just for the fun, but to be better than everyone else. Obviously, there will always be differing levels of talent on any team. There will always be some really good players and some who are barely talented enough to be on the team. Just because a 6th grader is the best on his team, doesn’t mean he will still be playing in high school. At the same time, the worst player on a 6th grade team might get better as he gets older and may be the one who plays in high school and college. I think the most important focus should be on being your best, being the best you can be, and not worrying about comparing yourself to everyone else.

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