The High Cost Of Winning

In Balance, Learn
By Jon Coles | January 17, 2020

The High Cost Of Winning

There Is A Time And A Place For Winning

The ‘win at all costs’ mentality has plagued youth sports and is burning through kids, mentally and physically. But if you ask two successful college coaches about winning, you get a very different story. 

Ferris State University (Mich) volleyball coach Tia Brandel-Wilhem, mother of two, and Ferris State basketball coach Andy Bronkema, father of three, have a combined record of 126-54 over the last five years. They’ve won 7 conference championships, 9 conference tournament titles, and an NCAA Division II National Championship. Needless to say, they have done a lot of winning.  

But as parents, it’s low on the importance scale. In fact, one of Coach Brandel-Wilhelm’s main goals for her son in basketball is to experience hardship. She wants to see how he handles adversity and works to correct it. “I want my son to work hard and try to win, however, you can learn a lot from losing and I want my son to constantly be learning in this developmental stage.”  

Read more: A moment to share or a missed opportunity, you decide

Coach Bronkema, 2018 NCAA National Champion, said that winning shouldn’t be a priority until the  Varsity level in high school. He went on to say that too many youth coaches are putting their egos ahead of development and the kids are the ones who get sacrificed; with burnout, injury, and losing the enjoyment that should come from sports. “Today’s coaches are getting a personal high from winning youth games. To me, success at this age can’t be ego-driven by the final score, it’s got to be joy-driven.  Coaches and kids have to compete for the love and joy of the game.”  

Coach Brandel-Wilhem, winner of six straight regular season championships and six straight tournament titles, echoed his opinion and said the best youth volleyball coaches keep a different scoreboard. “Instead of getting excited about unforced errors by the other team, they get excited about completing a bump, set, hit cycle. That’s their scoreboard. The best coaches redefine what success is during the developmental stages.”

Read more: How to do youth sports the right way

Jon Coles, PhD
Assistant Professor, Sport Management
Grand Valley State University



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