PeeWee soccer coaches mean well. Parents like to see their tiny tots all running in a clump chasing a ball, tripping over one another, smiling, giggling, and having a great time. Parents pay to see their children have this experience, and darn it, they want to see their kid trip over the ball and emerge with a scraped knee but a huge smile. Mom has a chance to put a Spiderman sticker on little Bratly’s boo-boo and kiss it all better while Dad gives his princess an hug, tells her how proud he is and what a wonderful job she did, all the while with both parents knowing their kid just isn’t very athletically gifted. The referees are really just there to tell you when to start and stop the game. No one keeps score because winning doesn’t matter—having fun, good sportsmanship, teamwork, that’s what matters.
Fast forward a few years. Bratly is now in middle school. Grades no longer come in the form of happy faces and sad faces or S, U, or E. Some students are smarter than others, and some are harder workers. Everyone, however, feels good about his or her accomplishments because teachers are told to find 3 positives to say before writing any negative feedback and for heaven’s sake do it in green pen because the red ink might make students feel bad about themselves and the terrible papers they’ve written. Learning is important, but not nearly as important as self-esteem.
High school. Reality finally starts to set in. Suddenly everything is a competition. Someone has to be valedictorian. Someone has to be the captain of the football team. Not everyone can be a cheerleader, and there can only be one prom queen. Yet, there are some who still subscribe to the PeeWee parent mentality—everyone should be on the team and we should do away with activities and competitions that have winners and losers because the losers might, well, feel like losers.
But what’s wrong with losing sometimes? While no one really likes to do it, it’s a part of life. Shouldn’t we teach this to our kids at an early age so they’re not so surprised when reality slaps them in the face years later? And why, as adults, do some people continue to work under the idea that the only way to be fair to everyone is to give everyone an equal amount of everything?
A couple years ago I was trying to sew a blanket for my best friend’s first baby. I can’t sew, but darn if I wasn’t going to at least give it a try. My mother sat and watched in amusement as I struggled for an hour to complete a task that would have taken her only minutes. My younger brother, who was also watching me struggle, said in a voice wise beyond his years, “It’s okay. You’re good at other things.” You know what? He’s right. I am not only good, but great at some things. Now I leave the sewing to my mother because she is better at it. She leaves other things to me for the same reason.
Personally, I like winning. I like being the best. I like feeling accomplished and victorious. Sometimes that means sitting out for part, or even most of the game because there are better players. Other times, I’m the best and can enjoy more direct involvement. Regardless of what it is, I like to win, and I certainly like winning more than a false sense of pride based on a warm-fuzzy-feeling that doesn’t really come from just knowing that at least we all got a chance to touch the ball.