Winning attitude, not the game

soccerWhat does it mean to win? The meaning of winning is something we have to teach our children every day whether or not they’re playing on a sports team. That’s why it’s important for parents to show their child how to feel like a winner, without necessarily winning.
I remember when my oldest son was playing club soccer for the first time. In his division, they always played up a level so that he was often playing against teams with children one or two years older. This was his very first experience with competitive soccer at the club level and I don’t think his team won a single game. Although he started the season wanting to win more than anything, by the end of it, he barely kept score. Instead, he learned through experience that teamwork, quality of play, and building his skills were what mattered most!

It took him a few losses to get to that philosophy, and in retrospect I wonder if that’s why they have the kids play up. The boys quickly thought more about their level of play and the quality of their teamwork then whether they won, because in general they knew winning was a stretch. Not that they expected to lose; rather they were focused on the goal of playing well than the final score.

As a result my son and his teammates are able to apply their learning from that first season of soccer to many other situations. They are able to try their best without expecting a certain outcome whether it be a grade or a score. They can still be highly competitive, but often they are focused on competing with themselves rather than against others.

As parents we are responsible for teaching our children that the secret and purpose of athletics is not the outcome, but the process of doing. Whether playing well, working hard, or treating people kindly, the message we must try to teach is that satisfaction comes from the process of working hard, knowing that over time we’ll achieve success and growth. It’s not winning because we can or when it’s easy. And certainly, our own examples as role models in this approach are essential. How we behave affects our children and how they look at the world.

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