Resources

Sink-or-Swim Training

Great Play uses the SCORE™ Method of training.

Elsewhere, such as in sports leagues, children may be exposed to a so-called "sink-or-swim" method of learning a new skill. This involves showing and/or explaining a complex skill, such as hitting a baseball or shooting a basketball, and having children potentially experience the frustration of failure over an extended period prior to being able to perform the skill. Younger children may have this same experience with learning basic motor skills on their own – walking, running, manipulation skills, etc.

Problems with the sink-or-swim method include:

Failure Isn't Fun

The process of acquiring motor skills should itself be enjoyable and build self-esteem at every step.

Failure Can Lead to Dropout

If it isn't fun, your child may give up and stop progressing altogether. We all want to do things that we are "good at" and get praised along the way for succeeding. Early success creates confidence, interest, and the desire to achieve. But, an early failure can snowball into a permanent setback.

Bad Habits Can Result

In order to bridge the gap between an inability to perform a skill (e.g., swinging the bat) and the desire to get a result (e.g., making contact with a ball) the child may take his or her own short cuts that adversely affect skills. That is, they might get a "good result" using "bad form." If not quickly corrected, they may then proceed to burn that poor technique into muscle memory through repetition. This can be worse than not having learned the skill at all. The bad form might have to be "unlearned" to make progress in the future. Foundation skills that form the basis for other more complex skills are particularly important to learn properly.

Children May Identify Their Physical Capabilities As Inferior – This is Tragic

If a child concludes "I'm not good at sports or physical activity", they may never overcome this thought. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as the child opts out of games at school or in free time, and falls further behind their peers. It is also completely unnecessary – all able-bodied children can be taught to be athletically competent, so they can participate and enjoy an active life.

Attitude Isn't Enough

A positive, supportive attitude is important for coaches, but it is not enough. Helping children routinely succeed requires a good system. Children will eventually see through someone cheering for them as they fail. However, they will thrive on success.

It is important for parents to recognize when your child is experiencing sink-or-swim training and be alert to spot potential problems, particularly in the event a child is beginning to "sink." Intervening with a SCORE approach can help.