Will to win can corrupt

By MARY VALLIS, National Post

[Note: this article, while providing information of interest, nevertheless typically promotes the disinformation that it is parents, not the society, to be blamed for the problems coaches and youth are encountering. – TS]

(February 11, 2002) – BAD SPORTS coaching can encourage children to become dishonest and selfish adults, a new study suggests.

Dr. Darren Treasure, an exercise science professor at Arizona State University, says fostering a positive sports climate for youth is crucial to their moral development.

“If winning is everything, an athlete will do anything to win,” he said.

“If you’re willing to do anything on the ice and engage in dishonest behaviour, then I don’t see why that wouldn’t transfer into other aspects of your life, particularly in an achievement context – particularly in the classroom or the business world, where winning is still being defined as the only way to have success.”

Dr. Treasure, a specialist in sports psychology, studied 279 young soccer players participating in the Norway Cup – the equivalent of the World Cup in youth soccer – to determine whether there was a link between their coaching and their sportsmanship or morals.

The study found coaches who emphasized their athletes’ personal improvement worked with players who were conscious of others’ needs and were interested only in playing ethically.

Players who were willing to express hostility and intimidate their opponents, on the other hand, were more likely to have coaches who championed winning as the team’s ultimate goal.

“Children want to be successful – they want to be good in the eyes of their parents and their coaches,” Dr. Treasure explained. “They’re willing to put their own attitudes and beliefs aside, and cheat and be dishonest [if] the only thing that matters is winning.”

The results of the study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, underscore the importance of finding coaches who value their players’ personal development.

Ian Curry, director of the Coaching Association of Canada’s national certification program, said ensuring coaches have formal training is the best way to meet that goal.

Even trained coaches, however, walk a fine line between ensuring young athletes benefit from participating and pleasing parents intent on winning.

“There’s definitely a large percentage of parents who see the end goal as raising a professional athlete,” said Angus Heaps, a senior boys’ basketball coach in Vancouver. “[Some parents] think their sons or daughters could be the answer to their financial needs, when they could be concentrating on raising kids with good morals.”

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