February 17, 2015
An old quote frequently used in the NASCAR world seems more appropriate than ever across the entire sports landscape: “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’ hard enough.” In fact, nearly headline over the past few weeks has something to do with cheating.
Sadly, that’s just a partial list. And the saddest story of them all: a Chicago-based Little League baseball team was stripped of its U.S. Championship last week for using ineligible players from outside their district.
It’s made so much worse because these 12-year-old kids didn’t decide to cheat. The coaches and other adults associated with the team did. They thought they knew what was best: winning at all costs.
I’m not someone who believes youth sports needs to be all affirmations and ice cream either.
I used to coach Little League baseball, and I’ve never liked the idea of coddling kids by deciding not to keep score during games, or by giving everyone a participation trophy. I think that’s more about making sure the parents don’t get too worked up. The kids know who won and who lost, even if there’s no scoreboard. And that’s okay.
Valuable lessons can be learned from competition at a young age:
But the lesson should never involve cheating – particularly when it’s being taught by coaches and other role models.
There’s a nice balance somewhere between coddling and cutthroat.