It’s OK To Win!

I’ve been hearing more and more lately about children being taught that winning doesn’t matter and in some cases—probably more than I care to know about— youth sporting events have stopped keeping score.

Why?

If you ask those involved, they’ll tell you it’s to keep from “hurting the feelings of the children that don’t win”. Well, that’s perfect preparation for real life, isn’t it? They’ll never have to deal with failure or having to pick themselves up and dust themselves off in the real world.

Seriously?

What those “enlightened” people don’t understand is that in most cases the kids are keeping score themselves. They know if they’re winning or losing and they’re all still enjoying the game. Most of them are having a great time with their friends and care more about the snow cone at the end of the game than whether they won or lost.

The notion that one cannot enjoy a game of soccer or monopoly or tiddly winks unless they win is absurd. When you have 144 golfers in a tournament and only one “wins”, does that mean the others are losers?  Not in my book.

In a race, is the first person to cross the finish line the only person scored? I don’t think so.

I went through triple bypass heart surgery on May 20, 2009 and ran my first-ever 5K just 190 days later. I ran every step of the way and completed it in 36:45—probably 20 minutes behind the “winner”. But, I can assure you, I felt a sense of accomplishment far more than anyone that finished before or after me.

My friend Kevin may have said it best when he said that if winning doesn’t matter, then there’s no reason to take risks. And if you’re not going to take risks, then all decisions are based on what keeps you safe, not what keeps you free.

My point is this: the Theory of Relativity does not apply here. For every action, there doesn’t have to be an equal and opposite reaction.

The lesson we should be teaching our children is that someone doesn’t have to lose for another to win. We need to be teaching them how to work together and create situations and scenarios where both parties win. We need to be teaching them that there is no shame in losing and certainly no shame in winning—as long as you do it the right way.

I am not advocating a win-at-all-costs attitude. I don’t believe in that at all.

Now, I realize sporting events are different—a score is kept and someone is called the “winner”. That’s OK.  As I said, there is nothing wrong with losing. We need to teach our children how to handle that end of the bargain, too. As they go through life, more than likely, it’s going to happen to them more often than winning. But, the key is to keep competing, keep improving and learning from each experience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Win as if you were used to it and lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.”

That should be what we teach our kids; it’s OK to take risks, it’s OK to win and it is possible to have a winner without having a “loser”.