For some time, especially during the earlier part of this decade (201x), there was a lot of pressure put on schools and children’s sports groups to have an “Everyone is a winner” policy.
A good example of this is a flag football group that my son belonged to. While they did not come right out and SAY that everyone was a winner, each week they would give an award to one of the players for outstanding sportsmanship.
It did not really dawn on me that this is what was happening at first, and to be honest, I was more lost in the fun of watching my son play than actually paying attention to the awards part. But when I did see it, it was a bit of a shock to me and I felt a little disheartened.
It was about four weeks into the “season” when they were doing one of their little ceremonies that they picked out this one little boy as this week’s outstanding player. I did not know the name, but when the little boy came forward, I realized that this is the little boy that would never play. All he did was cry and throw tantrums. I remembered that there was one time that the coaches were trying to get him to play, so they HANDED him the ball and told the other kids to stay back and let him run. But all he did was sit on the ground with the ball and cry.
Even my son, who was five at the time came to me afterward and asked, “Why did he get an award, he never played.”
This is where I decided to make sure that I teach Gideon that this is not right.
I work hard to make sure that he understands that there are always going to be winners and loser. But that losing does not mean that you you ARE a loser. It means that you made mistakes and to try a little harder next time, or to try something else next time.
Until this flag football team that my son was on, I had thought that people had moved away from that whole “Everyone is a winner, just for trying.” mentality. Granted, trying is the main point and if you do not try, you do not even have a chance to succeed. So in that respect, credit should be given for taking the chance, for getting out there and for making the effort.
But no… You are NOT a winner just because you MADE the effort, and I was lucky in that my son could see this even at his young age. He could tell that if you lost, you lost. There are no rewards for failure and there is no victory lap for the losers.
He also understands that congratulations should go to the winning teams. When we have been places where we play against someone, and they win. He is the first one to go over and shake hands with them and congratulate them. If he is the winner, he is happy, and will jump around, but will always take time to complement the other player.
If it is so easy for my son, a six-year-old now, to understand this and to live that life, then why is it that the adults that run these programs and for the parents that participate in them to figure it out?
I have taught Gideon from the start that he will win some in life and will lose. I have told him that he will probably lose more than he will win and that is fine. That is it not about the loss itself, but about the way you handle the loss and how you express it to others.
Being a good loser and understanding that you lost means you try harder next time, is every bit as important, maybe more so, than winning and knowing that you did it all right. Right now Gideon seems to understand that, he will say things like, “Poppy, I know what I did wrong, I will get it right next time.”
I hope that he keeps that up. Keeps that mentality and drive, and does not let teachers or other parents take that away from him.
Thanks for reading.