Friday, January 24, 2014

When Did Winning Become a BAD Thing?

Photo: Sampson Armstrong III WINNING!
I’ve been sitting on the sidelines and I’ve observed that we’ve somehow associated winning with being a bad thing. I think when the infamous Charlie Sheen coined the phrase ‘winning’ it gave winning a bad name. How could someone who seems lost be winning?

 I like winning and we’re raising our kids to be winners. I make no apologies for this. Who celebrates losers? Let’s be honest, it feels really great to win!  I’ve noticed a new trend whereby kids in competitive sports all get a trophy. That’s just strange to me. Why does EVERYONE deserve a trophy? Why not a certificate for participation and the MVP and/or Most Improved players get the trophy? Give the kids something to work towards. My theory is that if they know they’re getting a trophy at the end of the season, why work harder? What’s the motivator? What’s the incentive? This world is very competitive and we need to prepare our kids to meet that challenge. No one is going to just give you a trophy for playing in the game of life. Trophies like scholarships, jobs, promotion, pay increases are earned! Only the best are usually rewarded. As a young mother I used to tell my first son ( who was 5 or 6 at the time) ‘it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.’ As years went by I asked myself ‘what the heck are you teaching?’ IT IS ABOUT WINNING and winning IS fun! Who plays to lose? The fact that you play is in anticipation of beating your opponent. And both my husband and I are very competitive. You should see us play scrabble……and that’s just for bragging rights.

The recent debacle with Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree (two outstanding players in the NFL) caused me to get off the sidelines and get in the game by penning my thoughts. Unless you’ve been under a rock this past week, you should know who these players are, even if you’re not Seahawks or 49ers fans. Those that engage in Dog Whistle politics and use the word thug to describe this winner inspired me.  Clearly, they are losers.  This young man, Richard Sherman, just ended a hard fought battle, was on an adrenaline high and did what most athletes do. Yes he was shouting, yes he was trash talking and yes he appeared scary to some…but that’s being a black man in America. When they raise their voices, some get scared. However, not once did he use profane language, nor did he return Crabtree’s shove with a punch. That’s not the behavior of a thug. Heck, he even apologized. My thoughts were that no one seemed to address the shoving done by the loser, Michael Crabtree, but instead, tried to make the winner look like the loser. Perception is reality. Now if you look at ice hockey, there’s a great deal of thug like behavior; however, the powers that be seldom refer to them as such.  If our kids are paying attention, they must be confused.
Be that as it may, I think the lesson that needs to be taught is not that it’s okay to lose, but, how to lose with integrity. We must first validate our kids' feeling of disappointment, not tell them that it’s okay that they loss. If they’re disappointed, it means that, for them, it’s not okay. Let them own their feelings. Parents cannot control a child’s feelings, but they can teach them how to navigate and cope with different emotions. Be supportive without being dismissive. We’re not going to win every time but we must be engaged with our kids and teach them to be winners in losing. There are lessons learned when we lose. We need to teach our kids how to apply those lessons, learn from their mistakes and give them tools to cope with losses. That way they’re better prepared for the real world whereby losing is in full supply. They will face many challenges, but if we equip them with the tools they should be able to play successfully in the game of life and be a winner every time…even when they lose. Just remember, winning is a GOOD thing.

Play to win, be bold, be competitive, be equipped and embrace your journey.