The great debate: To win or not to win in kids sports


, Last Updated: 7:20 PM ET

Thereís something magical about the collective joy that runs through members of a team when they experience the thrill of victory.

Each of the players on the team feels some contribution to the achievement and carries motivation to repeat the euphoria in the next game.

Winning is not everything but itís a big factor in sports ... a big factor which soon may be eliminated from sports like soccer and hockey for children aged 12 and under.

Iím not an advocate of the change, but I had a good chance Wednesday to debate the issue with someone who is strongly in favour of such a move.

Kathryn McKenzie is a personal trainer at Surefire Fitness and a competitive athlete, who plays and coaches golf, tennis, volleyball and hockey, some of them at an elite level.

She has some good points on an issue which has been dominated by voices from the ďare they out of their mindsĒ viewpoint.

ďI do think itís a great idea for a number of reasons,Ē McKenzie said. ďThe move to take the competitive aspect out is a positive one in that more kids will be able to participate and play and the idea is that they will have a positive experience just being out there and hopefully will continue to play sports and be more active into adult life.Ē

Some would argue that if you canít take the heat, get out of the sauna. Players who thrive on competition will succeed in the sport while those who donít just might not be cut out for the playing field.

McKenzie argues that kids need more time to come to that conclusion and raising the age for non-competitive games might help.

ďBy making everything competitive at such a young age, we are actually turning young kids away from sport by giving them a negative experience if theyíre not on the best team or they donít win the trophy or they feel like a loser because they didnít score a goal,Ē McKenzie said.

ďThere are numerous benefits to being competitive and playing for a score but I donít know if, at such a young age, itís all that necessary.Ē

Of course, it depends on whether your provincial sports organization wants to develop better athletes or simply better people.

No doubt the additional non-competitive games could help make better citizens who understand the fundamentals of fair play. But will they really be better soccer or hockey players when they never experience tournaments, or playoffs or championship games?

ďI donít think it will hurt the development of the long-term competitive or elite athlete and I think it will develop better people,Ē McKenzie said.

ďDeveloping well-rounded athletes that play numerous sports well into their teens is a better way to go in terms of training even high-performance and competitive athletes.Ē

Personally, I think it will hurt the development of athletes in terms of skill because up until the age of 12 they wonít be playing games at the highest possible level, giving that extra ounce of effort when games are on the line, pushing their bodies to try to achieve something athletes have striven for, for centuries.


At age 13, that new concept will be introduced and our athletes will be behind the rest of the world.

Itís a great debate, though. Thanks, Kate.