This is the first post by Dan Clemens, a local author, baseball coach, as well as a leadership and communications consultant. Dan is excited to be contributing to our blog, giving us expert advice on teamwork, leadership and competition. We are working on adding DI Team Manager to Dan’s resume
Mantra of ‘Fun, Learn, Compete’ Transforms Activity into Passion
When it comes to working with kids, we need to make sure we’re accomplishing three things with their activities: they should learn, they should be challenged (competitive), and they should have fun.
When we create an environment where they can achieve this trifecta of Fun, Learn, Compete, we tap a special place in their souls and activity transforms into passion. Engagement soars, performance improves, energy spikes, and enthusiasm is at an all-time high.
This is true whether it’s a baseball game, piano lesson, or chess club. Our adult role as coach, adviser, teacher, or mentor is to help create a fertile environment for learning, competing and having fun. We should encourage kids to explore each of these three areas.
Learn. Kids should gain insights about activity, they should discover new things about themselves, and they should learn life lessons. Let’s face it – kids are like sponges. Our task, often, is to set the stage and get out of the way. Their natural curiosity takes over and we need only to channel it in a productive way. Other times, though, we need to help them connect the dots, for example, between effort and success, uncover a hidden strategy, or see the deeper meaning in the unfolding events.
Compete. Kids must be taught to compete. Life is full of competition – for scholarships, jobs, and even mates! Youth activities are a perfect environment for kids to learn how to read a competitive situation and elevate their performance to succeed. Healthy competition challenges kids to know themselves. They become skilled at managing around their weaknesses and leveraging their strengths to best the competition. This acquired skill-set is ideally learned as a youth when our sports and activities aren’t life or death. This safety net encourages risk-taking and learning from mistakes.
Another facet of competing is that kids must be at the right level. Things shouldn’t be too easy or too hard. The sweet spot is where the outcome is in doubt and neither success nor failure is guaranteed. This is true for both individuals and teams.
Fun. Above all, we should encourage kids to have fun with their activities. If they have fun, they’ll want to continue and get better. As a coach, one important measure of success I have for myself is if the kids want to play again next season. If they didn’t have fun, the answer is often “No.” Good things happen when we have fun, often without even knowing it. We work hard, we focus on the needs of others, and we laugh.
As we start to infuse the Fun, Learn Compete model into our efforts with kids, we quickly see that they feed off of each other. Learning is fun. The thrill of competition fosters new learning. Kids enjoy a challenge. The best teachers, advisers, and coaches help kids enjoy all three.
In the next post we’ll explore strategies adults can use in each of these three areas to make them come alive for kids.