Why Can’t Sports Be Fun and Competitive?

We completed our volleyball season yesterday, finishing 6-4 in league play (the school finished without a J.V. team last season, as so many players had quit from a winless team). Today, we will have one final practice to collect jerseys, play and have fun.

The A.D. joked with another coach on campus about our post-season practice. The coached asked, and I said that it was going to be a fun practice, basically King of the Court for an hour.

The coach made a remark about fun at practice, saying something to the effect of “Why are you making practice fun? I try not to make practice fun.”

I do not understand this attitude. There is likely a reason that the school finished without a J.V. team last season – it was not fun. This season, when we were losing games during the pre-season schedule, we were adding players. We went from 8 players on the day that we split varsity and junior varsity to 12 players at season’s end. Therefore, one cannot blame all the quitting on the losing.

We were more competitive than last season, and the players had more fun. Isn’t that the goal of sports and coaching? I am far from the most technical volleyball coach, but the majority of the players on the team improved, including the three players who had never played before. We did not do a lot of hard drills. We spent the majority of practice playing in different game situations. I would describe our practices as easy. However, we were a couple breaks away from winning the league championship (we were an inch away from an ace on game point in a game that would have created a three-way tie for the championship with us holding the tie-breaker).

I do not understand the mentality of intentionally making high school sports not fun. If I was a more technical volleyball coach, my team would have been more prepared and I would have done a greater variety of drills and a little more specific teaching, rather than trying to teach based on my instincts from when I play.

In basketball, I am a far more technical and knowledgeable coach, and I keep the practices fun at the high school level. We won the league championship this season AND every girl really enjoyed the season. Winning and fun are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to enjoy practice, work hard and improve at the same time.

It makes no sense to take the fun out of playing a sport on purpose.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

5 thoughts on “Why Can’t Sports Be Fun and Competitive?

  • I totally agree that practices can be fun and competitive! The key is to have the sort of communication and relationships with your players so that practices can still be intense and game like while they are having fun. I think people hear fun and think everyone is standing around joking, not working hard and relaxing. They don’t view it as structured, because they feel any structure or demands cannot be enjoyable or should not be.

    Practices have to be more demanding then games, but games are fun too. So practices should simulate that your job as the coach is not to be the adversary force that makes it tough. Your job is to organize your practice and inspire your players for them to make the practices game like and tough. You can’t be the cheerleader or the negative force, you need to coach them to be all those things and make it the players game. Then it will be fun regardless because they will want to be there and own it.

    I would argue that you had one advantage (that not all coaches have) in that having a relatively inexperienced team and coach they were still able to not only improve but see the development in games. Locally I have seen coaches try to build teams and programs but despite their best efforts have their legs cut out from under them by leagues and teams that don’t allow them to see improvement. They may have gotten better but basketball are losing by 60+ everynight or in soccer are losing 8-9 to 1 regardless of the effort they put in during the season. Then games and practices stop being fun as kids lose desire and would rather do something where they can put in the same effort and see more positive results.

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