Everyone gets a trophy. Everyone gets a participation ribbon. There are no losers, everyone is a winner! We must be careful to protect our kids from any disappointment, right? WRONG!! Enough already with this protective approach to competition. I’m not saying we need 4-year-olds to compete hard core. But the reality in life is that you win some, you lose some. Do the best you can. If you lose, but you can say, “I did everything I could possibly do and tried my best,” then you can walk away with your head held high. Feeling positive!
The first time I experienced this protectionist “nobody loses” approach was when my son was 6. He was playing soccer, and his team was pretty darn good. They basically won every game…if we were keeping score. You see, his coach, and the coaches in his league, didn’t keep score. Obviously, all the parents were sharp enough to know what the score was. And as they all told their kids the score doesn’t matter, they knew darn well whether their kid had won or lost!
On this particular day, my son’s team was dominant. Most of the game was being played on one side of the field, and we had put the ball in the other teams net quite a few times. The other team had barely mustered a shot, and certainly had not scored. And they were not having any fun. At half time, we gathered our team (I was the Assistant Coach) and told them they were playing great.
Then, one of the boys asked, “Coach, what’s the score?”
The coach replied, “it doesn’t matter, you guys are playing great!”
The boy persisted, “But Coach, what’s the score??”
The coach again tried to deflect the young boy’s competitive spirit. “We’re not keeping score.”
And then it happened. I just couldn’t contain my self. I spoke before I thought:
“But if we WERE keeping score, it would be 8 to nothing.” There. I said it.
The coach looked at me in disbelief, just saying, “Dude!”
As if I had just revealed some huge secret. As if they thought it was a close game. I mean really. It was pretty clear that our team had put the ball in the other team’s net a lot. And the other team had not put the ball in our net at all. So we can’t tell them it’s 8-0? I then suggested we mix the teams up evenly and play a fun, more competitive second half. We did, and the kids had a LOT of fun! In fact, our kids went out of their way to pass to the “other” kids that were now on their team, and when one of those “other” kids scored a goal, the whole place went crazy! The parents, and all the players on both teams, were so excited you’d think we told them they were all going to Disney World! It was a great lesson in sportsmanship.
So let’s stop this nonsense. Stop hiding from reality and protecting kids from experiencing a little disappointment. They can handle it! Kids are smart. You can tell them the score. You can tell them who wins and who loses. You might as well. They already know!
Song Pairing: “Positive Thinking” (click sample to the right)