Winter Questions

My season as a coach ended last week with NIRSA Nationals, so I now have the time to unwind a bit and reflect on a hectic fall. I hope to write individual posts describing how the three teams I coached developed through the season and my plans for improving as a coach, but I also want to investigate some new topics less directly related to competitive results. This is my sixth year of coaching, and many of my players have now finished playing competitively and moved on to other challenges. Talking with them nearly always drives me to look back and question both what they gained from playing and how it will help them in the future. Certain questions keep popping up, so I’ll leave those here and revisit them individually or collectively later in the winter. If anyone would like to share their thoughts on how to answer these questions, or pose a related question, please feel free to add a response.

  • What do organized sports prepare players for? What were they originally intended to do, and how has that evolved during the last 150 years? During the last 15 years?
  • Are team sports or individual sports more effective at creating lifelong fitness habits? At teaching responsibility? At developing interpersonal skills? Does there have to be a choice between the two?
  • Does the usual sports outcome of either winning or losing (or drawing) promote a mature understanding of failure and success? Is this related to the overabundance of Manichean discourse on social and political matters? Could sports be reconfigured to prioritize progress or cooperation while still being challenging and competitive — is a sport like mountain climbing an example of this?
  • Does an activity with relatively unchanging rules prepare participants for a world in which the rules and circumstances are constantly changing more and more quickly?
  • If we tore up the current sports system and redesigned it considering only why people enjoy playing sports and the benefits they hope to get from participating, what would it look like?
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