There has been a lot of talk lately about sports for kids and how their parents take a walk on the crazy side in berating their children, other children, referees and coaches to get their child to win. They sometimes physically attack the coaches and referees as well. It doesn’t verge on abuse; it is abusive.
One of the answers happening in some leagues and schools is to have sports without keeping score. They have decided there are no winners or losers, just players. This is another example of the overly coddled era we live in, where playground slides are lowered because kids might tumble, safety measures are enforced and basically everyone walks around padded from the real world.
While it may be a good thing in some instances, especially with children, to lower the competitive level, I don’t believe it should ever be eliminated completely. Yet, there are two sides to this coin. One extreme was the example above of people pressuring their children to win win win, or Amy Chua’s (the tiger mom) father saying second place wasn’t good enough and a disgrace. Winning definitely can give a person a sense of confidence and yet, not everyone wins. But one can try to do the best possible. Winning is what the Olympics are all about and most sports. There are the best in their field. But to obsess over it can be an imbalance in life and psyche. I remember playing on a dart team where we were the division that wasn’t very good. We played, we wanted to win but we didn’t beat ourselves up if we didn’t. Yet there was one guy on one team who was so adamant about winning that he was a giant jerk. Even his team apologized for his rude behavior. The Tonya Harding figure skating debacle where her ex-husband and goons tried to break Nancy Kerrigan’s leg is an example of how extreme that need to win can get. The movie Black Swan is an example of the fears of not being the best. Extreme obsessive competing can drive you crazy.
The other side is that there always must be someone who losses. Sometimes a person doesn’t try hard enough and sometimes they just cannot beat the others no matter how hard they try. This is the state of the world, whether in sports or jobs or almost any other aspect. One person wins, others lose. It doesn’t mean they’re failures; they’re just not the best in that category. I’ve lost some things, I’ve won some things. Sometimes I didn’t care enough and sometimes I did but my skills weren’t there. That is life and to remove the winning and losing from a child’s rearing only makes them unprepared to hand the ups and downs of the real world.
But there are ways to balance these sides. Make sure a person is encouraged in what they do and encouraged to do well. Don’t berate them if they fail, if they’re trying. Help them learn to cope with not being the one winner and keep the winners from becoming terrible blowhards. As a shy child I was often picked last for all sports in school. I didn’t have a chance to shine, already being singled out as “different.” I became self-conscious. If the teacher had divvied up teams instead of having the same kids do it all the time, that would have helped level the playing field. It’s okay to lose but it’s not okay to be a loser and cliquey behavior, bullying and mob mentality happen in children with fewer social nicety filters.
Even being one of those who did not excel in sports as a child, I would not eliminate sports where you compete against someone. As a writer, I have faced a lot of rejection, but it makes me try harder, and become better. That too is competition and I live with it. We need to be more accepting of people being at different levels and abilities, yet still encourage people to compete and excel but in a healthy and balanced way, with few emotional scars.