Kids Aren’t Allowed To Win — Or Lose — Games Any More

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A few weeks ago, the parents of one of my godchildren were sick and unable to take her to her first lacrosse game. They asked if I could step in. Could I? Until they invent something cuter than a bunch of seven-year-old girls in full gear learning the complexities of lacrosse, such questions are silly.

My children are too young for sports so the experience was new to me. I immediately sized up the other team. Their coach was fierce and they all looked so much bigger than my godchild’s team. But it turned out that our team did quite well. They knew their fundamentals, had a couple of great players, were great with on-the-fly substitutions, and shooting through the crease. I even ended up losing count of the score. At the end, I asked my godchild what the score was and she explained that they don’t keep score so that there won’t be any losers.

You have got to be kidding me. I mean, how do you learn how to deal with loss — much less victory — if you’re never given the chance? And it’s not like these are toddlers. They know what’s up. It just struck me as ridiculous. San Francisco father Kevin Gianatiempo shared his disgruntlement with local NPR affiliate KQED. You can listen to his piece here.

He begins by saying he understands when soccer teams don’t count the goals they score or basketball teams don’t count their baskets. They’re not calling out differences so that those with lesser abilities can maintain enthusiasm and interest. But then he experienced the same thing at his 8-year-old son’s gymnastic tournament:

Professional judges assessed each gymnast’s performance and posted their scores after each event on an electronic scoreboard in the gym for all to see. At the end of the meet, when it is customary to recognize gymnasts for their all-around and individual event scores with awards, no such thing occurred. Instead, all were called before the audience and presented exactly the same medal. No distinction for individual scores or achievements. Each was recognized equally regardless of personal or team accomplishments.

Wait, why did we just judge and score the gymnasts if we weren’t going to rank and recognize them? My son achieved personal bests in individual events as well as in his All-Around score, but he had no idea how he ranked against his peers.

Then, it hit me. We were witnessing another example of the political in-correctness of winning. I always thought sports were metaphors for life. Wins and losses help prepare you for life’s ups and downs, and setting and accomplishing goals demonstrates the value of hard work and commitment. How do we expect our kids to grasp these concepts if we don’t provide a context for how they perform versus their peers?

I wonder if it’s not the children — who generally handle victory and loss just fine — so much as the overcharged parents who these sports officials are trying to handle.