Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Winning. And Losing.

I had an interesting conversation with Hippy-Love Française last night. We were talking about the importance of our kids getting involved in an activity, a sport, to help encourage them to build their confidence and thus, be strong in mind and body. We both agreed it's important for our kids to be physically active and challenge themselves by learning to ride a bike, go skiing, or even head out for a run. But we disagreed dramatically on one aspect of this whole thing.


For me, competition is important to sport. It's important to learn that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you train really hard and still have a shitty race, sometimes you don't train at all and somehow you still manage to do it all as it should. Competition introduces you to other people and other ideas about a sport that you take personally. It's something that teaches you how to win strong and most importantly, how to learn that losing doesn't equal failure.

I've only won a competition once in my life and that was the day all the good skiers fell down because of ice. Me, freaking about wiping out in front of the hot guy from the University of Wisconsin, I snow plowed the whole first section of the course and managed not to fall. Low and behold, that got me a gold. Good old competition teaching me it's not always about speed.

More normally, I've finished last, near last, or in the bottom half of any race I've ever been in. I'm proud of that actually because learning how to lose has been worth every penny of every entry fee.

Hippy-Love told me a lot of her issues with competition come from the whole hassle of weekends being swamped by tournaments, games, and matches. Busy training schedules and life being organized around sport. It's just too much to ask. "Where is the time for family?" She asked. "Where is the time to just enjoy skiing or judo or tennis?"

I agree with her in theory. The thought of schlepping my kids around for this or that is not my number once choice for a Wednesday evening or at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Especially if all four of them actually get involved to that level. But, once again, getting to that level with a sport teaches you commitment and patience and determination. All things that I need as much help in teaching my kids as I can get.

I'm willing to load up the bateau de route and drive all over God's kingdom to get these people to their practices, their competitions, their 'thing,' because I know, in the end, it's going to help them learn to be gracious in winning, strong in losing, and solid in body and mind. It's through competition that we learn it's ok to not always be number one. Yes, sport is good for sport's sake, but it's through competition that we really learn about ourselves.

Mini-Husband asked me if I won my race on Sunday. The answer was easy.

"Yes. Yes, I did."


magali said...

I'm probably more on the side of Hippy French you for this, I went into judo saying that I did not want to compete (I started as a teen and would either compete against kids with the same belt as me or brown belts with the same size), I knew I would not enjoy the process, and knowing I could not win was not part of the decision. Still the teacher insisted on me getting into competition. So I quit when he would not listen to me.
Knowing that sports and activities can be for fun is a valuable lesson too.

And if you want mini-husband to understand that winning is not always the goal, shouldn't your answer be that you did win your own race but not the race ? ;)

Dig said...

Ah, Magali! That's exactly what I told him.

And learning a sport for fun is definitely a valuable lesson, I totally agree.

But tell me, with running for example, what is it that makes you sign up for a race? Perhaps you didn't want to compete with judo, but you do with running. What's changed? ;)

magali said...

actually no, it did not change: I am not competing with running. I very rarely take part in races, and usually it's more as an occasion to practice the sport I like but pratice on my own, with some company and support.
It's more a way to be social for asocial me ;)

The only possible competition in running is with myself, trying to PR, but I know I'll never win anything and I'm not interested.

kissmekaty said...

Statistically, Bronze metal winners are the happiest. xoxoxoxo

G--I am the best, what pressure.
S--I can't believe I lost.
B--Holy cow, how cool, I got a medal!!!

Diane said...

I schlepp my tribe around quite a bit to get them to their athletic endeavors. And they are all very competitive. I think it is genetic. Curt is very competitive although of course I am not (LOL!). And as mcuh as there are many nights I would prefer not to be picking someone up at 8pm and having dinner together every night would be awesome, what they have gained from sports far out weighs that. Besides physical fitness and good health, they have gained confidence, friendship, sportmanship, the abilty to deal with adversity and experienced what being part of a team is all about. They have had the great fortune to be exposed to other adults to relate to and look up to in guise of the coaches who have devoted so much time to them. They are definintely better people because of what sports and competition brings to their lives. And I must say that the conversations that we share in the 20 minutes in the car going to or from practice or games can not replaced. For those minutes, they are all mine and do we talk! i wouldn't trade that time for anything!

Sue said...


Kitty said...

It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it is how you played the game.
Today when I ride alone in the car I remember conversations of the past.

RHB said...

Great post and I loved reading the comments. I am undecided, but it's good to hear both sides of the "sports for competition or not" debate.