Coaching and playing to win leads to negative stress and mistakes not victory
            In recent conversations and presentations I have been presented with scenario of how much different is to play to win versus playing for fun. It has been presented to me in different forms and variations that it is the kids decide that they want to play to win. (A concept that is so abstract that even professional athletes cannot define and execute winning continually. )It has also been stated on numerous occasions, and I understand completely how this thinking evolves, that the kids “want the coach to coach to win.”
            Let’s analyze this and break it down to its basic components. Many many coaches, players, and parents see this style of coaching going on every game, or so they think they do. They see what appears to be this paradigm playing out where a coach just plays his top players. If the game is close the bench is “shortened.” And he still doesn’t win!
            They see it play out constantly in youth sports, high school, college, and the professional ranks. What they do not see in the upper levels is how play by performance comes into play. But that is a conversation for another essay.
            In a recent conversation with a long time high school coach I was struck by the fact he didn’t see how playing for fun ultimately had his whole team playing better, and that , if done correctly and consistently, gave his team a better chance of winning on a consistent basis as did playing to win.
            He recounted a story about how his team was going to face the best team in their league, and since his team was clearly outmanned he didn’t tell his players the clichés of “working hard, you can win, because unless something extraordinary happened, and isn’t that what we want, they were not going to win.       
            He said instead he got the team together for pizza at lunch and then before the game told his players to go out and play hard but have fun. He told them to try new things on the court and to pass the ball around a lot and not worry about the score. Whatever happened he was going to take the team out for pizza after the game.
            The next thing he said to me stays with me to this day.”AND YOU KNOW WHAT THEY PLAYED BETTER!” He had a smile on his face as he described how well his team played and how they put a scare into this top rated team. He was genuinely proud of his kids for their effort and persistence. The fact that he got ALL the kids into the game was a source of pride. When I asked him if any of the “subs” played exceptionally well, He exclaimed, YES they did!
            He then said to me that he wasn’t comfortable putting in his “subs” when his team was up 15 points. He was nervous the other team would come back and score. When I told him that interteam competition was something he could embrace by scrimmaging two equal teams in practice and just let them play he smiled. But I knew he was thinking about it. I had planted the seed. It was up to him to see what was going on with his team and apply what we talked about to his own circumstances. Growth had to come from within not without.
            The next thing he said showed why coaches need to stop coaching and just let the kids play for fun. He said, “VJ, you know I couldn’t do that before, during, or after a game we knew we should win. The players wouldn’t stand for it. They want to win.”
            So I then asked him to tell me how he was going to win the next game his team played. He said" he couldn’t do it, no coach could. There were too many variables involved both on his team and the other team so that there was no way he could predict the outcome." I agreed. I told him that many professional team owners, coaches and general managers would love to have a formula for winning. But in the all the time I have been around sports I haven’t heard of anyone who did.
            I don’t know who said this as I heard it late one night on TV. (I only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night and I can tell you there is some really bad TV on late.)
            “All great coaches have great players, the rest of us are eventually unemployed. Take the Auburn football coach. Two years ago with Cam Newton at quarterback he won a National Championship, now after finishing last in the SEC this year he was fired.
            However coaches who coach to get all the kids in and for EVERYONE on the team to get better and have fun as the season progresses, they are the coaches I want to learn from. They are the coaches I want coaching our kids for they are going to teach life lessons of community, chemistry and teamwork.
            Youth sports are about inclusivity not exclusivity