Defining Success in Youth Sports

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Culture & Lifestyle, Sports

Defining Success in Youth Sports

By Estela Camacho

We end each sport season with some form of celebration: banquets, picnics, house parties, dinners; the list goes on. There is much to be said about who receives a participation medal or a trophy, a distinguished letter or even some words of praise. We know of teams that pride themselves on trophy titles such as: player of the year, rookie of the year, most valuable player, most improved, most spirited, the perfect attendance participant and the scholar athlete with the highest GPA (that happens to be my favorite). It’s as if we need to measure success in more than one area. We tend to observe this more in the upper levels than in the beginning phases of soccer, T-Ball, basketball, etc. What happens to all those trophies and medals? Are they displayed or do they end up in a box somewhere in the basement? As kids get older, do they take those depictions of success with them?

It’s natural to want to demonstrate how much we have learned and the skills that we have acquired with practice and repetition. It’s more than the win over opponents; nothing is more palpable then to know that the time invested has paid off. Everyone has a definition of success in youth sports, from very young participants to those that have excelled in their sport and moved on to bigger things. Coaches view success more as a team accomplishment than an individual achievement. Yet, parents tend to focus more on their own children’s success and how that affects them and then, the team. Our own interpretation of success lies within our vision of what more the athletes can do. If they have mastered competency in a skill, we raise the bar and increase our expectations to a higher level. There is always more to accomplish, and internal satisfaction never dampens the competitive spirit.

I suppose you can say that success is in the eye of the beholder, just as beauty is. It is a reflection of what we, as athletes, coaches and parents, value. From an organizational point of view, Nick Kaplanis, Danbury Athletic Youth Organization (DAYO) president, mentions that there are several factors to determine success. Are the practices well organized, keeping all the players engaged? Is there communication between coaches, parents and athletes? Are the players learning and improving as a team as the season progresses? If the answer to these questions is yes, you will win games and be competitive in the rest. Coach Hubert Parris, DAYO track and field commissioner and 2nd vice-president, said, “Success isn’t measured only by wins or losses, by first, second or last place finishes. It is measured mostly by a commitment to self-improvement, and an unyielding desire to stay in the fight to the very end.” We all know too well that anything can happen in the last few seconds of a match, a football game, a cheer stunt, that baseball in the air, that rebound on the basketball court and how about that relay run with only seconds to capture the distance between first and second base.

What is success to you? Bill Guider mentions that a critical measure of success in youth sports is whether or not kids are having fun. They should want to be there. If it becomes a chore, then something is wrong. Does this sound familiar? Kids don’t want to go to practice? Is the attention devoted only to “key players”? Are there new skills and techniques being taught without enough repetition and practice to help acquire these new skills? Are the captains doing their job to promote a positive atmosphere and not so much of an “I am your boss” attitude? Captains can be chosen by simply being older athletes, through a popularity contest or being the sweetest and kindest participants. But those coaches that take success seriously in all aspects of the sport know that it takes more than the above to be a great captain, a leader that the rest of the team can look up to.

So, what is your success story? Is it your child hitting the ball and running to first base? Is it your child throwing that javelin with technique? Is it your child having fun and looking forward to football practice? Is it your team that lost almost every game but experienced camaraderie among parents, coaches and athletes beyond expectations? Is it your qualified cheer team going to a Nationals Competition? How you value and celebrate success shall be the stepping stone to your next and upcoming athlete endeavor. DAYO congratulates their Danbury Trojans Pee Wee Cheer Team on qualifying and going to Nationals!

For additional information, please call Estela Camacho at 203-530-2457 or email her at You can also learn more about the organization at, on Facebook (Danbury Athletic Youth Organization) or Twitter (@DAYOinfosports) or read about us in Tribuna Newspaper.

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December 5, 2018

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