It’s that time of year again- cue the rain or scorching heat- schools around the UK are gearing up for Sports Day! That one day of the year that seems to cause so much controversy about winning and losing, where dad’s around the country pull hamstrings and mum’s compete in flip-flops. The competitive spirit is rife among the parents as we are scowled at by the ‘every one’s a winner’ and the ‘it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts’ crowds. Who are they kidding? It’s all about the winning! We all want to win in what ever we do and if we don’t, then what is the point in trying? Why would anyone bother practicing to be the best at something only to be told that it’s not fair to have a winner? After all, if no one wins on sports day, what is the incentive to run faster or jump higher?
What about the kids who only excel in sport and not in academics? Why should these kids have their ‘moment to shine’ taken away when they spend the rest of their school life struggling in the lower maths set? Surely, we should be celebrating sporting talent as much as academic prowess.
My kids are ultra competitive and I can safely say, “I blame the parents!” We both have sporting backgrounds and competed nationally, in our sports. Though we really don’t mind which sport they choose, we have given our children ample opportunity to find, and participate in sport and openly encourage competitiveness in their attitude towards it. To be honest, the competitive streak runs through our everyday life, with most bed times going something like this:
Me: “Upstairs please, it’s pajama time!”
The boy: “No”
Me: “Come on, you’ve had an extra 5 minutes, let’s go.”
The Boy: “But it’s still light outside……..”
Daddy: “I’m gonna win!”
The Boy: Up the stairs like lightning
But when it comes to sporting competition, though I think it healthy to want to win, our children also need to be able to lose with grace. A hard lesson, but a very important one, after all, as adults, we regularly ‘lose’! There really aren’t that many big winners in life and a great way to learn, is to turn a failure around. Of course, it’s not a great feeling when you lose and you don’t want your kids to go through that, but it’s all about bringing a positive out of a negative and motivating an improvement.
Lou came 6th in her last gymnastics competition, though she was called up for this position, to her, she’d lost and she had a face like thunder! After the presentation, she stomped around and nothing I could say would snap her out of it, so I left her to stew for a while. Once she was calm, we looked back at the video of her performance and chatted things through. She pointed out what had gone wrong and how she could improve while I praised the fantastic bits of the performance. I told her how proud I was of her and that, with a bit more practice, she could medal next time. By then, her friend had finished her section of competition and won the age group! I fully expected this to tip Lou over the edge and re-start a jealousy-fuelled paddy, but I needn’t have worried as Lou raced up to her training-buddy and sincerely congratulated her saying “I’m so proud of you!” I was so impressed with her mature attitude that it almost brought a tear to my eye. That afternoon, she completed her gymnastics home-conditioning program five times through, determined to improve her next performance!!
Ooh and just to finish this off, all you new parents, who don’t yet know the protocols of children’s party games, allow me to enlighten you! The rules have changed since we were attending these functions, so please take note:
- No one loses.
- When playing musical bumps/ chairs/ statues being ‘out’ is akin to winning and you give a prize (yes, to every child!)
- Pass-the-parcel must have enough layers for every single child to unwrap one (you may need several parcels!). You must therefore, be paying attention to ensure the music stops on every child during the game. You guessed it- each layer has a prize! It is also customary for the birthday child to win the main prize, even though they have just been given 30 or so, presents!! They cannot possible lose on their birthday!
- You need lots of prizes.
- Everyone is a winner!! Every time!!
How do you feel about our ‘everyone’s a winner’ culture? Do you think we should shelter our kids from failure and only introduce the concept later on? Or, do you think competition should be encouraged from an early age? Should Kids Be Allowed To Lose?