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Don’t give your kid a trophy for losing

NASHVILLE (BP) — When my son plays in soccer tournaments, I want him to win.

I feel like I’m going against the tidal wave of parental niceness to even say such a thing, but it’s true. I don’t want him to just have fun or play safely. I want his team to win. And I hope every dad cheering from the sidelines for the other team feels the same way.

I believe we should resist the fashionable tendency to take competition out of sports.

That’s why, at the beginning of the soccer season, I asked my son: “What’s more important? Having fun or winning?”

He answered: “Having fun?”

“No,” I replied. “Winning. Because if you’re not winning, you’re not having fun.”

At some point in the past two decades, parents began to worry they were putting too much pressure on kids. So sporting events became less about the score, and more about the experience. That’s what I was told a few years ago when I asked why there was no official scorekeeping for T-Ball anymore. And then I joined the other fathers on the sidelines who were secretly noting every run.

I can hear the objections already …

It’s not about winning or losing; it’s how you play the game.

Well, yes, let’s give a loud cheer for good sportsmanship. But last I checked, the point of playing the game was to win — to play your heart out and celebrate a victory with your team.

Your kids will feel terrible if they lose.

I certainly hope so! The last thing I want is my kid to feel good about losing. I hope he hates losing and loves winning. Because it’s when you put a strong emphasis on winning the game that you’re best equipped to learn from your losses — to channel the frustration and inner angst of losing into doing better the next time.

You’re going to push your kids too hard and make them fearful later on in life.

No, I’ll tell you what will make someone fearful later in life. It’s when they’re out in the real world and they realize that not everyone wins a trophy. Not everyone does well in life just because they did a respectable job or put forth some effort. I want my kids to learn this lesson now, so that they’re adequately prepared for the world they will live in one day.

But don’t you want every kid to feel like a winner?

No. Because when everyone’s a winner, no one’s a winner. If effort doesn’t matter and the results are always the same, then what’s the point of bettering yourself? If you get smothered with compliments after playing poorly, how will you ever believe the rightful praise that comes your way after you’ve played a stellar game?

Consider me old-fashioned, but I think sports can be a terrific way to build some character in our kids. And character-building happens best when the kids are playing to win.
Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project (http://gospelproject.com), encompassing Bible study resources for adults, students and children from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Trevin Wax