Oct 012014


Girl barrel racing

Striving to be the best.


I’m a fan of collaboration and cooperation.  I’m also not crazy about our culture’s growing aversion to competition for kids.  When nobody loses nobody wins, either.

[Tweet “Our growing aversion to competition for kids: when nobody loses nobody wins, either.”]

Healthy competition is a fact of life and can be helpful to a child who is going to grow into a self-sufficient adult: if we want to teach our kids that they can influence their own outcomes, I’m not sure it’s fair to protect them from the opportunity to face challenges.  Being part of a contest can drive us to reach our potential, show us what it takes to reach the higher levels and often demonstrate we’re capable of more than we thought.

[Tweet “Being part of a contest can drive us to reach our potential & show us what it takes to reach higher levels.”]

It’s easy to find articles about adults who bring a cutthroat mentality and even violence to youth sports.  That has much more to do with power, control and vicarious living than with competition.  Competitiveness is an essential life skill, neither inherently positive or negative. That part’s on us.

It’s about striving for excellence, going after something true and noble… fair play and sportsmanship… being the best you can be… commitment, persistence, discipline, vision and focus.  The ultimate triumph is in the journey, not just the destination… it’s the striving, not just the winning…

Bob Costas on the making of great Olympians

Striving for the win will not teach kids they’ll always get it if they work hard.  They may learn that coaches, referees and even other parents are not always fair or mature. They may discover that some teammates are lazy and selfish — just like in “real life.”  While I never enjoyed the conversations sparked by that learning (or seeing my athlete unhappy) I always appreciated the opportunity to talk about the importance of understanding the behavior of others and not take it too personally.

[Tweet “Kids may discover that some teammates can be lazy & selfish: just like in “real life.””]

Sometimes our conversations about deep disappointment would morph into wonderful discussions about situations we can control versus those we cannot change.  The earlier we learn we can’t change others, the better.

Some of competition’s greatest lessons take time to uncover:

  • the  most important opponents we ever face are our own fears and the limitations we place on ourselves
  • and those who don’t compete don’t lose; they also can’t win.



Apr 232014
Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony 2011

Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony 2011 (Photo credit: SFA Union City)

Have you seen this article about some who was suing their $19,000-a-year pre-school for damaging her child’s chance to get into an Ivy League college?

Whether I agree with spending $19,000 a year on pre-school (I don’t) or that graduating from one of the Ivies is a passport to Nirvana (ditto) is irrelevant.   We all want our children to excel. And since it takes most kids years to find their strengths, I don’t understand how  a few steps off the pre-determined path can be perceived as so harmful.

I’m a big fan of little guys trying everything that comes their way –from soccer to poetry.  Art, music, sports, languages…. if we don’t introduce them to ideas and experiences outside of our every day norms how will they figure out what they are passionate about?

And how do we find that fine between being supportive of our kids’ experiences without taking over?  Without making it “about” Mom or Dad?  I think it’s already hard enough for a kid to try something and fail without the added pressure of feeling they’ve disappointed a parent or two.

After all, while competition is a great teacher, there are many times that it is  important to reward participation and the courage it takes to try something new.  It’s easy to forget that losing is nature’s best teacher.  Time and again, high-achieving adults confirm adversity and struggle as the “teachers” that pushed them to win the next time!

Kids shouldn’t be afraid of losing.  Go easy on the sympathy if they lose.  Soft-pedal the congratulations if they win. In either case, ask them what they learned or what they’ll try next time.



Enhanced by Zemanta