It’s Not Fair, It’s Practice!


The other week we posed a question about sports injuries. If a child gets hurt during sports practice, recess, or some other physical activity can you hold the coach or school to blame? In some cases, like coaches putting a concussed player back in, there is clearly someone at fault. But when a kid falls off the monkey bars and fractures his collar bone can parents really sue the school? We got a lot of great responses from parents, coaches, and sports administrators and on LinkedIn one soccer coach brought up two great points. One is that as a culture we are always on the lookout for “easy” money (hence why suing is so prevalent in our country). The second is that we (as parents, teachers, and coaches) are babying young kids too much so we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Ken Headley, head soccer coach at Judson College, mentioned;It’s Not Fair, It’s Practice!

I have a saying I use when doing a soccer practice session in which one of the teams are lopsided for a training reason and I hear “Coach that’s not fair they have an extra player or the best player, etc” I say back to them “It’s NOT fair its practice” and I mean that in the total sense of the word.

We’ve had the debate about participation trophies before (again, got a ton of really great feedback!) but we think Ken has a great way of going about practice with his soccer team—it doesn’t have to be fair, it’s practice! And as he pointed out, he is purposely stacking the deck for or against one of the teams—but couldn’t that help his players prepare for the next time they are up against a team that is a little faster, a little stronger, or a little more talented than they are? Especially as players get older (and most certainly at the college level where Ken coaches) teams are not going to be evenly matched. But that doesn’t mean the bigger and faster team is always going to win. The “underdog” team still has a fighting chance, especially if they are used to playing in an “unfair” situation. The odds may not be in their favor but that doesn’t psych them out because practice has prepared them for this kind of game. When you think about it like that, creating unfair scenarios in practice situations is a great way to prepare for a game!

A few weeks ago we came across this post from a football coach who talks about using the weather as a coaching tool. When his team was going up against a strong competitor on a hot day he told his players that because they had been working so hard in practice that the weather would actually help them out! There is no way the other team could have possibly trained as hard as his team and playing in hot weather would only make them more tired, more sluggish, and with enough pressure his players could win! As he says,

The truth is I have no clue if we practiced harder than the team we faced… That difference in practice pace is what I sold our kids on. Now had it been raining, snowing or extremely windy, I would have had to come up with something else.

The net is it wouldn’t have mattered WHAT the weather was, I was going to tell my team it was an advantage for them. Kids need that assurance, they want it, they crave it and they will eat it up.

This football coach actually turned an unfair matchup on its head and used it to motivate his players! But because his team was used to “unfair” playing scenarios (in this case hot weather) it didn’t faze them at all.

While we want youth sports to fun and enjoyable for everyone, it is important that kids learn that even when life isn’t fair that doesn’t mean you automatically throw in the towel. Sometimes you can turn an unfair situation around on its head and come out on top!