'Changing the Game' of youth sports

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MANCHESTER — Winning. It's a highly-revered word. It's what every athlete strives to do. It's what every coach preaches to their players and it's what's expected every time stepping into competition.

Changing the Game Chief Content Officer and Lead Speaker Reed Maltbie has heard this rhetoric both on the playing field and on the sidelines.

To Maltbie, winning is important, but its not the actual result that matters most. It's how you get those results that matters in the end. With his and his organization's help they are effectively 'changing the game' of youth sports.

Saturday night, Maltbie brought his message to local coaches, children and parents at Burr and Burton Academy to discuss how we as a society should view our athletic competition.

In his presentation Saturday, the San Diego native based his speech around the difference between a 'winner' and a 'warrior.' That all starts with knowing there's always someone who's there helping you get to the success that you crave in your athletic career. A winner only cares about the outcome, while a warrior is more focused on how they got there.

"There are very few sports where you don't have other people to support you," Maltbie said. "Even those individual sports, they're other people who got you there. Talk about Mount Everest. Nobody climbs Mount Everest on their own. That one person might get all the credit who gets to the summit, but the team got that person there."

Maltbie talked about how being selfless for the good of the team cannot only better your team, but better yourself. Sticking with the warrior prototype in the most literal sense, the speaker brought up an athlete in the pro ranks that he believes embodies this ideal, Stephen Curry.

Curry had led the Golden State Warriors to an NBA Championship in 2015 and had just come off of a NBA Finals loss to the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Curry, who was the defacto 'guy' in Golden State, could have rested on the laurels of success he experienced, but instead was selfless and elected to share the spotlight to help bring in NBA All-Star and former league MVP Kevin Durant.

Now arguably a top-five best player in the NBA like Curry shared the bright lights with Durant, taking the change in stride to make his team better.

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Sports are in a major way anchored on the ideal of instant gratification and that the result now is much more important than the continued improvement seen through hard work. Guys like Curry hit that mold of a person whose incremental improvement has taken them to the top of their profession and success followed suit because of that improvement.

Maltbie's message to parents as it pertains to the youth level is clear.

"We're led to believe we've got to get there now," Maltbie said. "Sports is a marathon. What we see is very easy to do, but they aren't little mini adults. They're still trying to learn their bodies and how to deal with pressure of the social world around them. It's a marathon. It's not short term."

The glory of winning and being the best is amazing, but the competition that you endure to get to that point trumps all. Maltbie brought up the example of a guy who won an award for the best lineman in football stating in his speech the award should go to 'Joe Smith.' The crowd all reacts like who is 'Joe Smith' because nobody knew who this player was.

"Joe is way down on the roster. Joe doesn't have the name on the back of his jersey. Joe doesn't travel with the team," Maltbie said. "Every day Joe lines up across from me at practice and is like 'today's the day I get by you so get ready. Today's the day you won't be able to block me and I'm taking your role from you.'"

The player got better every day by competing against 'Joe Smith' and that competition bred him to be the best at what he does.

"It's like iron sharpening iron," said Maltbie about the need for competition. "In youth sports, someday they may be your teammates, someday you may be colleagues, someday you may be neighbors. They're not your enemy. They give you the opportunity to get better."

To Maltbie, it's about creating that culture to compete because in the end that will not only breed personal success, but also collective team success.

He pointed to the New Zealand national rugby union team, called the All Blacks, to what epitomizes this ideal. They have created a culture going more than 100 years back to have the values to compete and be based in their values both on and off the field. This led them to being one of the most successful sports franchises in history.

The difference between a winner and a warrior is clear.

"All warriors are winners, not all winners are warriors," Maltbie said.

The crowd at BBA was engaged throughout Maltbie's presentation Saturday and BBA Athletic Director Dave Miceli could not have been more happy to have him talk to the crowd in Manchester.

"The message of being a warrior and not a winner, focusing on a growth mindset fits into everything we know about how the brain works and everything our best coaches are doing," Miceli said. "We need more people developing better people and the byproduct will be excellent athletic programs. Reed's message was fantastic. No matter where you are in your athletic or coaching career, you're able to walk away with some changes that will immediately make a difference in how you impact kids."

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed on Twitter @AAucoin_Banner


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