My team slogan for my pee wee football team is “Play for Fun but Win for the Team.” I always loved to play football, I wanted to win but as a young football player I knew that I did not have control over the other players and the outcome of the game. I had to do my best and hope that everyone was doing the same. I was lucky, at the Pee Wee level we went undefeated for many years and we lost maybe 6 games in a 5 year time span. When I reached Jr High, I played on average teams and in High School we had losing records all but one year. The High School was a new HS in our school district, so our HS football program started from scratch, which was tough, especially in our Texas 5A district. But, at least as a Pee Wee player I felt what it was like to win. And winning is funner.
Last year, I fielded a Pee Wee flag football team. It was about half of my tackle team. I told the kids we would win the first half and play for fun in the second half and not worry about the final score. This was a great strategy, so I thought, until the 4th game when we officially lost, because we played for fun in the second half. The players were so unhappy about losing, even though we all agreed before the season on our second half play for fun strategy. The players took a vote after that loss that they did not want to lose any game because of our fun strategy. I was very surprised, because the lineman and 3rd string backs who I rotated in at backs during the second half fun game voted unanimously to play to win. They did not care about rotating in to run the ball, if that meant they might lose the game.
I learned a lot that day about all of the recent theories about competition for young players. Kid’s like competition and want to keep score. They like the challenge that sports offers them. Life is a competition and we should not water down sports just so everyone can get a trophy. I relearned that fact from my flag football players. Play for Fun, but Winning is Funner!