Yesterday, at my son’s soccer game, I had an epiphany:
The goal of competitive sports is to win.
I can’t recall whether this aha! moment came before or after I suffered a minor concussion from a second grade boy kicking a soccer ball directly into my face from 3 feet away, but it’s there now, and I can’t shake it.
You see, my son is in a “developmental league.” Translation: nobody wins or loses any of the games, we’re simply learning the rules of the game.
At the end of the game, I heard a kid from the other team asked his coach, “who won!?” And his coach replied, “This is a developmental league, nobody wins or loses.”
If this really is a developmental league, and we really are interested in learning the rules of the game, then rule number one is:
You’re playing to win.
Other wise there would be no need for teams. And we would just run around kicking this ball back and forth with no need for goals.
But there are teams, and they play against each other, with the primary goal of scoring more points than the other team. PERIOD. Regardless of what competitive sport you play. Well, I guess sometimes the goal is to be faster, etc. But you get my point.
I’m worried that we’re raising a whole generation of kids who aren’t being taught from the get-go that the object in competition is winning, and further, that we are teaching kids that really good effort is rewarded… even if you suck. And that is crap. I’m sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true.
I mean, how often do you hear in business, “I’m giving you the promotion because even though your marketing campaigns showed no clear objective and resulted in no revenue gains, you tried harder than the guy or gal whose campaigns were on target and brought us crazy amounts of business, so CONGRATULATIONS! You’re the one!”
Development my ass. Son, we’re out here at 8:30am in the morning for you to work your arse off, and WIN this game. And this is a metaphor for life. Find what you’re good at, work your ass off to get better at it, be the best, be a good sport, and have fun.
Nobody likes having a kid or adult on their team, be it a business team or sports team, whose approach is, “Oh, I’m just hear to have fun, who cares if we’re the best?” Zipidy Doo Dah, Zipidy Ya. La, La, La. Rainbows and butterflies. Is that a flower?!
Do I think you should have fun? YES. But, competition is about winning. And learning how to win. And learning how to lose. And learning that losing feels like shit, so you’re naturally encouraged to avoid it. To improve your game. And be the best you can be.
And I do absolutely believe in good sportsmanship. But you learn that by practicing being a good sport when winning and losing.
And for the love of God, please stop giving kids trophies for no reason! Parents need trophies for no reason, kids don’t. It sends the wrong message. Didn’t win? Well, there’s always next year. That’s when you identify strengths, opportunities for improvement, give a word of encouragement, and congratulate effort.