When you hear the name Bill Buckner, what do you think of? Is it that he led the National League in in 1980 with .324 batting average? How about his career batting average of .289? Not likely. What about Scott Norwood? It’s definitely not all the game-winning field goals he kicked for the Buffalo Bills in 1990 and the years prior. Instead, it’s their tremendous mistake that comes to mind. The agony of defeat never felt so heavy as it did on those players, and the many like them who when thrust into a position of making a key play that would decide a game for their team, they ultimately failed.

What’s true about moments like those is that isn’t fair to lay all the blame on them. Buckner’s fatal error in game six of that World Series and the Mets’ win forced a game seven that Buckner’s team, the Red Sox ultimately lost. The Bills had one of the most potent offenses that football had ever known that year, but managed a measly 19 points against the Giants. It isn’t fair that these players are going to be remembered forever for one mistake, but that is the cruelty of celebrity and the price of fame. In that regard, children playing sports have it a bit easier.

We Win as a Team

Professional, amateur, and even children’s sports are emotional. If it’s your child who centered the puck late in the game and it resulted in the winning goal, it is likely that he or she likely feels the weight of that. If it’s your kid that missed a spare in the 10th frame to lose a game, you can understand that they don’t feel particularly good about. Did they fumble trying to get extra yardage in a close game with the clock winding down? Bad mistake, for sure. Did they chase a pitch outside of the strike zone with two out, bases loaded, and a full count? A good coach should let them know that their mistakes, while painful, are okay.

Good coaches never lay the blame firmly onto one player’s lap. Even at the professional level, one mistake never loses the game. If a game comes down to one play late, it’s because the other team fought hard and there were mistakes made that kept them close. A coach’s job is to remind every player that defeat is something that can be learned from.

Learning from Our Mistakes

Coaches at the youth sports level tend to recognize that mistakes are not necessarily bad. They happen because their players are still in the process of learning. Regardless of what sport our children are involved in, the team element can never be forgotten. The key for every player on the team is to improve and to grow from the experience.

As the stakes get higher in high school, college, and the professional level, the issue is no different. Buckner went on to play four more years of baseball and Norwood, stayed with the Bills for several more seasons. We simply let our kids know that even good players make mistakes and learn from them. We remind them of their successes.

For more information on youth sports programs, please visit our web-page at League Network.