Defeat: It’s good for you

That whole “everyone wins!” philosophy on the pee-wee playing field really rubs me the wrong way. Life is full or defeat. The sooner kids learn this the better; and how to emerge with a little dignity. “Everbody wins” isn’t preparing kids, they are getting ripped off. They really need this lesson and the resulting personal growth.

Last night my football team lost. We had gotten so accustomed to winning that this new losing thing really stings. And I guess that is kind of my point. Fortunately, I have been gifted with perspective. Not without effort. I guess it’s not really a gift as much as it is a skill.

Frequently the d-bags come out the the woodwork to rub it in. I can almost hear the clock ticking. But I have found a way to feel sorry for them. There is something sad about people needing to do this. It’s unseemly and makes people look like a fool with self-esteem issues. We shant discuss where those issues come from. I know it’s a “sports thing”. It’s also a “jerk thing”.

Anyway, I see the connection between people not letting their kids lose (“Losing is OK, Jimmy. I mean, it’s OK with me but your father is really going to think you’re a dud. So here’s a trophy”) and how upset people can get after a rare defeat. I was allowed to lose as a kid but you can kind of forget when you are a Trojan. Uhm, now I remember.

Comments (7)

  1. Kevin Daly says:

    The "everybody wins" philosophy is also educational poison: if failure isn't acknowledged nobody learns anything.

  2. Andrew. says:

    It takes 10 years of purposeful practice to get good at something and motivation is the essential ingredient, not any sort of "gift". I'll bet you can't find any so-called child prodigy that hasn't spent hours and hours every single day for years practicing their sport/instrument/whatever (as you say, gifts are nothing more or less than skills that have been acquired). Given that motivation is such a critical component to learning it makes sense to me that for young children the emphasis should be on fun. If that means having a "everybody wins" philosophy and allowing 6 year old's to turn cartwheels on the soccer field during dull moments then so be it. Winning and losing on the sports field can always be introduced for older kids when it provides some motivational benefit.

    For me, teaching kids to win or lose gracefully is a separate problem and comes up in so many different aspects of life that it can be taught without layering it on top of learning a demanding physical activity.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Kevin – thats exactly right.

    Andrew – I don't agree on the "everybody wins"/winning gracefully (agree that the latter should be taught but not to the exclusion of the former) thing but I'm with you on the diligent practice thing. Did you read "Talent is Overrated"?

  4. Andrew says:

    No, I haven't read Geoff's book although it sounds very similar to the 2006 Scientific American article called The Expert Mind which is where I first learned about all the research that points towards experts being made not born. Unfortunately that article is now hidden behind a pay wall but it was truly fascinating for it's time.

    By the way I completely agree with the need to attempt difficult tasks and have your failures analyzed (that's essentially the definition of effortful practice) I just disagree that team sports for young children should have a win/lose verdict attached to each game. A half-decent coach can watch a game and figure out the areas that individual players need to work on without any reference to a win/loss decision.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I just think the losing with dignity lesson is valuable and appropos of the situation.

    I'm going to see if I can still get to that article.

  6. Kalyan says:

    Failure does help; has helped me, my friends and if you thing we are just common people, here you go!…/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Great link…thanks Kalyan!