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Winning Isn't Everything...

Tonight, husband is in command of the soccer coach's whistle for the first time. Parent coach No. 1 had to head out of town. So, he'll be joining another parent to teach five- and six-year-olds some of the basics of working together to score goals.

In this, his rookie experience, he's got a few concerns, mainly how to encourage the kids' skills and teamwork without putting a focus on winners and losers. We distinctly recall one boy last year whose family pulled him out of the sport because he couldn't stand to see the other team score and get ahead. But at least in that case, Mom and Dad spotted the issue and made a call.

In North Carolina, parents are the problem. Parent confrontations with each other and with referees sparked a kids' league to ban some adults from attending for a week. In Washington state, the youth soccer association held seminars on good parent behavior at sporting events. Closer to home, I've seen the occasional parent berate his own child over the sport.

Teaching kids (and parents) sportsmanship extends beyond the soccer field. We encounter competitive issues in simple family games of Sorry and Uno, where one boy doesn't like losing. So now, instead of emphasizing a win, we celebrate the way a game is played. We end our fun with a simple "good game" and handshakes all around. How do you encourage good sportsmanship in your kids, either on the soccer field or at the chess board, while still teaching them to try to win?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  September 27, 2007; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
Previous: Let's Work Together to Prevent Tragedies | Next: Brush 'Em, Brush 'Em, Brush 'Em

Comments


So let me get this straight. Since one kid can't deal with losing you don't let the winner feel good about his win and pretend like it didn't happen? How about, if you can't deal with not winning, then you can't play with us? I just don't get that at all. There will be times in their lives where they will win and lose. Best thing to do is to teach them to be a graceful winner and a graceful loser.

Posted by: Moxiemom | September 27, 2007 7:46 AM | Report abuse

My son plays soccer. At one game, when he was playing in the dirt with another child instead of focusing, I heard a mom on the sidelines make a derogatory comment about him. Good thing for her I didn't open up a can of whoop a$$ right then and there. It absolutely cracks me up that there are parents who treat sports for young kids like it's the Olympic trials.

I think board games and card games are a great way to teach the fundamentals of sportsmanship. But Stacey, someone's got to lose. That's just life, and the sooner the kids figure it out, the better. A little competition is not a bad thing, provided it's the child who wants to compete.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 27, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I have a couple of comments. I coach this same age group. I don't like to lose but I can handle it if my kids play hard and then lose. If they lollygag around and lose that's another thing. Trying your best is important. I worry more about the kids that don't care if they win or lose. Losing sucks and you should hate it. The idea that you are just out there for exercise is a joke. Life is a competition and the sooner you learn the better. I hate this we don't keep score sentiment. kids KNOW whether they won or lost.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Well, actually at this age, I think it's okay not to keep score. Teach the kids to work together, have fun, etc. They have their whole lives to keep score and win or lose.

Certainly, we need to teach kids to deal with winning and losing - both are a part of life (and you probably learn more from losing than winning). But at young ages, it's okay to not be competitive.

Posted by: atlmom | September 27, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Stacey - good sportsmanship does not mean ignoring who wins and loses (at anything! this doesn't apply to just sports). Good sportsmanship involves the conduct of both the winners and the losers. And, the best way to teach it is for parents themselves to be, throughout every facet of life, compassionate, polite and fair. If you make fun of someone's appearance, sports ability or other trait, if you drive agressively, or if you act as if you are better than others, your children will emulate you. Don't limit this to the sports field.

Posted by: joe | September 27, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I've evolved on this issue. When my oldest (of 4) first started soccer, I was too intense and behaved in ways that parents shouldn't. It was nothing terrible like you read about sometimes but I would critique and criticize my son and didn't offer the support he needed. After a season or two I realized that my behavior, which I felt would help my son, was hurting him. I changed my behavior. That said, I do think that youth sports have gone too far in deemphasizing competition and the win/loss dynamic. The bottom line is that winning matters and very young children know that instinctively. Learning how to be a good loser is a very important skill in life. How will we teach our children that lesson if losing is removed from the equation. Also, competitiveness and intensity and focus and committment are all good qualities that all successful people have. Sports is a good way to teach and instill those qualities in children thus they shouldn't be denegrated the way they are in so many youth sports. Yes they need to be kept in perspective and taught as part of an overall enjoyable experience but they shouldn't be removed altogether. I guess what I'm getting at is that there must be a happy medium between the way I used to be and the overly sensitive approach popular today.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | September 27, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

At 5 and 6 year of age, kids should simply be having fun and learning the game, not worrying about who won or lost. Any parent or coach who can't stand to see their 5 or 6 year olds team loose is TOO competitive!!

Posted by: DaddyOh | September 27, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

The most important thing you can teach 5 and 6 years olds on the soccer field is to have fun and enjoy the game. Instill the love of the sport in them. I don't think you should be pushing them to play hard (i.e. not to lollygag). 5 and 6 years will "lollygag". It's part of their nature at this age. Let them enjoy the experience of the game. That doesn't mean they run amuck on the field, but it does mean that the coach isn't in their face yelling at them everytime they don't play well, or aren't running as fast as the other kid. The coach needs to provide a positive environment where the kids can enjoy the game.

I don't think the parents should keep score at this age. That doesn't mean the kids won't know exactly what the score is, though (and that's OK). But they don't need the added reinforcement from the adult role models.

I do think kids need to know there are winners and losers (that's life). And I don't want my kid to feel good about losing, but he does need to learn to control his emotions when he loses.

Posted by: LGMich | September 27, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Maybe parents should consider being good sportmanship role models. When was the last time you heard a person watching their favorite team lose and say the other team played better? Usually one hears how the refs stole it or other excuse etc. Another aspect that has to be taught is graciousness in defeat, and of equal if not more importance, in victory. Kids get most of their cues on how to behave from the adults around them so it is tantamount for us to model proper behavior for them.

Posted by: John Percer | September 27, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

This segues nicely into what is one of the more difficult things for children in our modern age: the ability to gain something from failure or loosing.

The moment of failure is a great learning opportunity, but we discourage young people from seeing it that way. The example of sports, in this case, is a perfect illustration. Coach pATRICK (who may correct me, if I am wrong) does not mind if his team looses after working hard, because then he actually has some real information to work with to help his team improve. This is as opposed to just telling them they need to "focus and work harder."

This extends to school as well and lends to grade inflation (the academic equivelent of everyone getting a trophy at the end of the year). Parents are partially responsible for this with an emphasis on results instead of progress, but that does not really apportion the blame correctly. It is all wrapped into a cultural concept of "everyone is a winner." The problem with that is that loosing is an important part of learning as well as developing character.

Posted by: David S | September 27, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

This is a dumb topic. What are we supposed to say "I teach my child to mock the other team when he wins and pitch a fit if he loses (which doesn't happen very often because he's such an outstanding player.) I run up and down the sidelines and scream at him if he's not playing well."

And what's with the generalization of North Carolina as being full of parents who are the "problem?" You make it sound like NC is the only place where that happens, and that there aren't any reasonable, normal people in NC.

Posted by: North Carolina | September 27, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Come on, Bart. Remember what Vince Lombardi said: "If you lose, you're out of the family!"

Posted by: Homer | September 27, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

One of the more curious things is the differing approaches of travel soccer and recreational soccer. Travel soccer has the reputation for being ultra competitive, and while there's a lot of truth to that, travel soccer also has a much more aggressive program to encourage good sportsmanship on the part of the coaches, players, and parents. In particular, parent are strongly discouraged from making any comments to the referee or yelling instructions to the players. Our job is to cheer and encourage. This is emphasized at the start of every season and reinforced as the year goes on. And by and large it works.

The organization that runs my son's baseball league also has strong institutional support for good sportsmanship. They run a very effective program that starts with the coaches and filters down to the players and parents.

My experiece has been that it's much easier to start with an emphasis on good sportsmanship and fair play, institutionalize it, and correct any problems that arise, than it is to sit back and wait for problems to grow out of control before you act.

Posted by: Arlington Sports Dad | September 27, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

The Positive Coaching Alliance and responsibilesports.org have some very good insights on coaching and parenting youth athletes. Redifining Winning: The ELM Tree of Achievement: Effort, Learning, coping effectively with Mistakes. ROOTS to Honor the Game: Rules Opponents Officials Teammates Self. Having a good prants meeting at the beginning of the year is crucial to getting everyone on the same page. The result is Fun, Achievement and Personal Growth. The scoreboard matters, but other things matter more.

Posted by: Fo3 | September 27, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

prants = parents sry

Posted by: Fo3 | September 27, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

"I worry more about the kids that don't care if they win or lose. Losing sucks and you should hate it. The idea that you are just out there for exercise is a joke. Life is a competition and the sooner you learn the better. I hate this we don't keep score sentiment. kids KNOW whether they won or lost."

Exactly right!

This emphasis on "celebrating how the game is played" rather than on winning is all part of the feminization of American society. Boys naturally love to compete and love to win, and all the whiny leftist feminazis just can't stand it.

And... for God's sake, it is LOSE (LOSER, LOSING) not LOOSE (LOOSER, LOOSING).

Posted by: Lugo | September 27, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

re "celebrating how the game is played rather than winning"

Allow me to change your misconception:

"Celebrate how the game is played as well as celebrate winning."

If you celebrate a strong effort, improvement in skills, positioning, decision making, teach startegies how to bounce back and learn from mistakes, the wins will come. If you teach that winning is the ONLY thing that matters, the only result will be to create a group of quitters. The world is a competitive place, teaching strategies to compete even when losing is not feminization.

Posted by: Fo3 | September 27, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I agree that you can go too far in pushing the sentiment that "winning doesn't matter", when sports and board games generally DO have winners and losers, and kids have to learn to be good sports even when it's hard.

But doesn't anyone else think that organized team sports at ages 5/6 is too soon? Too soon for the kids (most of whom would rather lollygag) and too soon for the parents (who - if they delay competitive sports for their kids, say till age 8 - will still have years and years of opportunity to plan their entire lives around youth sports leagues year round). I say give it a pass, as long as you can.

Posted by: Kathy | September 27, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I agree with NC that there's a problem with the topic. I think you can overestimate the importance of sports to kids, period.
You know, look, sign the kid up for soccer, go to the game and enjoy it for what it is. If the kid wins, great. If not, so what?

One of the great insanities of American parenting is believing that everything you do is significant. You're just one person in that kid's life. Example: one of my nephews was a terrible crybaby who always wanted to win and have his own way. One day, an older kid sat down with him on the bus and kindly but firmly told him that unless he stopped with the tears he was not going to have any friends. It wasn't anything his mom hadn't said, but the message was delivered by a messanger that he could hear. Problem solved.

My advice is spend more time playing poker with your friends and let the kids work this stuff out among themselves.

Posted by: pivoine | September 27, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Pivoine, I hate to start this up, but you don't have kids, do you?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 27, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

"A little competition is not a bad thing, provided it's the child who wants to compete."

Posted by: WorkingMomX |

I totally agree with this. Too many times it's the parents who are trying to live vicariously through their children; especially if their parents did not allow them to compete as children. I have 12 year old boys playing football in 7th grade. Both are great players (always the first ones picked, fast, good hands) but at the junior high level, things are playing out differently. Child A is turning into one BAAADD player. He's willing to do the extra work, he gets pumped out when he delivers a solid tackle. Child B who always was a little better is looking pretty mediocre at this point. Their big brother (19) talked to them last night about how to improve their game, get faster, maybe get more playing time. Child A was all about listening and willing to go the extra mile. Child B was like, "I want more playing time but I just don't want to do anything more than is being asked of me." All of that to say, that's alright with me. One is choosing to ramp us his game, the other is choosing complacency. They will each reap what they sow and accept the payoff/consequences. I'm not going to badger Child B because HE DOESN'T WANT TO. This is making my husband crazy because he thinks every game should be played like the winner gets a new kidney.

"The world is a competitive place, teaching strategies to compete even when losing is not feminization."

Posted by: Fo3

I think this is right on. Our kids will be expected to compete in the work place and knowing how to be a gracious loser is a necessary skill. No one will win all the time. To teach otherwise is setting a child up for failure.

Posted by: momof3boys | September 27, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

THANK YOU, Moximom! Exactly!

Posted by: Bertrude | September 27, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I live in a small town in Central VA. Soccer is quite big here and my 7yo LOVES the sport. It doesn't matter whether anyone keeps score or not, every single solitary child knows what the score of the game is. Period. I also believe in keeping score, because how the heck are they going to learn how to be gracious in winning and losing?

Personally, I have taught all my children that the winner ALWAYS shakes the loser's hands and says "Good game." Whether it's Crazy Eights or soccer. Then the winner cleans everything up! I have very gracious children who still all like to win.

And I have never ever EVER heard or seen a parent act inappropriately in the past 5 years of team sports here. I know it happens, but in this country town, it does not. Or at least not at the under 10 level!!!

Posted by: Andrea | September 27, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

years ago, when oldest DS was 3, my sister was visiting with her 4 1/2 YO. My nephew wanted to play candy land and I said to my sister: well, my DS doesn't really play correctly, he likes playing with the pieces and the cards, but he doesn't really know how to play.

So she said: well he *has to* learn how to play correctly. In the haughty voice.

And I said to her: well, he *will* learn. he's just really a little young to know how to play properly, and that's okay - he's a little kid and he can do what he wants - he'll have plenty of time in life to have to play by the rules.

I thought it was a little much - I was just warning her that her son may be a little disappointed that my son wasn't playing the way he wanted him to.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 27, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Posted by Fo3 @ September 27, 2007 09:20 AM:

"If you celebrate a strong effort, improvement in skills, positioning, decision making, teach startegies how to bounce back and learn from mistakes, the wins will come. If you teach that winning is the ONLY thing that matters, the only result will be to create a group of quitters. The world is a competitive place, teaching strategies to compete even when losing is not feminization."

Fo3, you put this very succinctly. It is not about diluting the pleasure of victory or the sting of defeat, but gaining something from the experience of loosing that then makes you a better sportsman/woman.

This does extend well beyond sports into other arenas. I value the co-worker that can learn from their mistakes and adapt what they do, or the student that looks at the low or failing grade and can apply themselves to doing better next time. It is always very sad to see systems or habits in place that discourage that.

Posted by: David S | September 27, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

When my daughter was 3 she wanted to learn how to play chess. She would cry whenever my husband would take her pieces, especially the queen. She got over it if she wanted to keep playing. We have taught her that we expect her to do her best. So at a horse show over the summer, when she did her best and received one first place and two fourth place ribbons, we asked how she felt. She was very proud of the first place and understood what she did wrong in the other events and was looking forward to correcting her form. However, she was still proud of her fourth place ribbons because she did her best. We were also proud.
Her swim team coach doesn't really expect children under the age of 10 to be competitive. He prefers them to concentrate on perfecting their stroke mechanics and enjoying the sport. Competitiveness can come later. He does expect them to give 100% though.

Posted by: 21117 | September 27, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

To follow up. I don't "push" my kids to win, that is the goal but at this age, trying is very important. You can look at bugs in the dirt at home. This time period is for playing soccer. If you don't want to keep score, take up running. The game has a ball and goals and the point of it is to put more balls in the goal than the other team. Losing is in many ways a good thing. It puts the sting of failure into people and makes them work harder to attain a goal. Give me victory or give me defeat but don't try to tell me that it does not matter. We got our butts beat by a team and then we played them again and played hard and tied them (which no one had done before), my kids were elated, they KNEW they had accomplished something.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

fr 21117:

>...Her swim team coach doesn't really expect children under the age of 10 to be competitive. He prefers them to concentrate on perfecting their stroke mechanics and enjoying the sport..

How about working with them to stay afloat in case of an emergency? Seems to me that would be the more important thing than "perfecting their stroke mechanics".

Posted by: alex | September 27, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

" Best thing to do is to teach them to be a graceful winner and a graceful loser.

Posted by: Moxiemom | September 27, 2007 "

EXCELLENT point, I tell my son and my daughter, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but you keep trying.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

" He's willing to do the extra work, he gets pumped out when he delivers a solid tackle."

Just got flashbacks to my mom trying to 'talk sports' with me, and being embarrassed when she got the terminology a little wrong, but still happy she tried. The more commonly used phrase is "pumped up".

Posted by: Homer | September 27, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

FROM TEDDY ROOSEVELT-

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

This pretty much sums it, i think.....

tedd

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Alex, most kids on swim team can "stay afloat in case of an emergency" by the time they're 5 or 6. Usually to join a swim team the child will have to graduate out of the swimming lessons program associated with the pool that teaches all of the basic skills (including floating).

Posted by: MaryL | September 27, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The "feminazi" crap is just that: crap. Being a feminist doesn't somehow make losing more appealing. This, like many topics, doesn't lend itself to grinding your favorite political ax.

The key issue for parents to decide is, what is their goal in involving their kids in sports? We have three goals for our kids: lifelong fitness, learning to take direction from the person in charge, whether coach, boss, or team lead, and learning to work in a team setting to achieve specific goals, including proper preparation and how to develop a strategy. If a parent's goal is limited to lifelong fitness, then putting them on teams that de-emphasize winning and competition make sense. But those sports experiences generally don't teach excellence, strategy or respect for your coach.

Even for parents who have the same three goals we have, I only agree with pATRICK wrt kids over 6, because I tend to view the introductory sports phase, e.g., 3 - 5 year olds - basketball at the Y for 8 weeks, soccer with the Optimists' Club for 10 weeks -- as more about being a team, having fun and beginning to appreciate that each sport has its own set of rules. Heck, in 4-year old soccer the kids generally don't know about being offsides. In basketball, most of the 5 year olds can't score a basket if you drop it 2 feet and there is no defender, LOL. It doesn't make sense to turn kids off to sports who might otherwise really enjoy them simply because a coach or a couple of parents were intense. Parents who yell instruction non-stop from the sidelines, at a 4 year old who isn't entirely sure which goal is his, are absurd. Then they wonder why their kids drop out.

By 6, OTOH, when kids begin to want to play a sport because THEY like it and not only because mom signed them up, they can understand and keep in their minds during the game the full set of applicable rules and can, as a group, follow more complex directions and practice drills, AND when they have more of a commitment to the game, the tenor should change to something approaching what pATRICK describes - a focus on excellence with all that entails. Telling 10 year olds that it's all about effort is as absurd, to me, as yelling at a 4 year old that his last play was stupid.

Stacey - as others have noted, ONE incident in ONE league of ONE sport in ONE city doesn't indicate that an entire state has any particular problem. Please be more precise. It was CASL, in Raleigh, and it was the Challenge league, e.g., the mid-talent league -- not a rec league and not the most talented and competitive league, Classic. CASL has very detailed parent behavior rules, enforced them, and that was that. The parents should be ashamed of themselves but their behavior reflects on noone but themselves.

Posted by: MN | September 27, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I think one of the best things we can model as parents is to widen the focus beyond just "how did my child play?" I've noticed that parents frequently only encourage their own child. I think it's really important for parents to cheer other people's kids as well -- and to compliment other parents on how well their child played, even if their child isn't a star.

My kids swim mostly -- and I always encourage my daughter to watch her friend's races and her sibling's races and to cheer for them as well. I think looking beyond your own child is a REALLY good way to cut down on some of the darned competition. Try it sometime. It works.

Posted by: justlurking | September 27, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Spot on MN. worrying about winning at 4 is silly. Just kicking in the right direction is a good accomplishment. This year at 6 yrs old, we are playing against some kids who are very good and WANT TO SCORE AND WIN. Doodling in the dirt at this age is not going to cut it and it gets more competitive by 8-9 years old.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Posted by justlurking @ September 27, 2007 11:08 AM:

"I think one of the best things we can model as parents is to widen the focus beyond just "how did my child play?" I've noticed that parents frequently only encourage their own child. I think it's really important for parents to cheer other people's kids as well -- and to compliment other parents on how well their child played, even if their child isn't a star."

This can work in different ways as well. Parents involved in helping coach, shuttle kids to "away" games, attending "away" games, or otherwise focusing on the team rather than the player is more than just modeling good behavior, it helps those teams keep running.


Posted by: David S | September 27, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Good quote pATRICK.

I look at people and see them just afraid to do anything, always making the safe choices, rather than taking a risk and aiming high.

I hope to instill in my kids the idea that it's okay to take a risk, and it's okay to fail - cause then you can say you tried. Rather than sitting around wondering all the time. My DH and I take risks, but very calculated. Being so 'safe' all the time is just not what we would like. I understand it's probably out of fear - but we talk about it a bit and say we never want to make decisions out of fear, but from a position of strength.

I guess this is WAY off topic, but that's a great quote.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 27, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse


Gracious winning and losing is a noble goal, but it's good to remember that kids don't always start out with maturity and grace, it takes effort for them to achieve, sometimes, and allowing them space to cope privately can help. As a kid I always felt losing put me in a fishbowl of unwanted ribbing and attention. I couldn't just offer a perfunctory 'good game' then retreat to privacy. I had to run a gauntlet of commentary ('guess she's not perfect after all'; 'look, now she'll get a headache and hide in her room'); I hated negative attention and long after I matured enough to cope with the actual failure/loss gracefully, I still dreaded that post-loss attention. If your kid can manage a civil 'good game' and post-game cleanup, that seems to me enough, let them retreat if they're not up to keeping a cheery social face throughout a drawn-out aftermath . . . some of us are introverts and the challenge of sustained forced cheeriness after a loss or disappointment is one challenge too much . . . at least til we mature.

On the parent end, many seasons of soccer have taught me the trick of cheering, which is to let escape my lips only positive exhortations --- mostly "Go kids_name!" making it a point to encourage each girl by name when the ball's hers to play. My last obstacle was finding an alternative to the "come on, don't just stand there" inside my head, and the alternative I stole from another mom is "Run, team_name, run!" I find keeping those positive expressions on the tip of my tongue help me project happy encouragement instead of criticism/direction . . . and I do always try to notice and comment on a good play a kid made during the game, afterwards . . .

I feel blessed that I really *love* watching the kids play soccer, though. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing. Was surprised, though, when I brought my 10yo to watch a college women's soccer game and the bleachers were still filled mainly with parents of the players . . . who kvetched and yelled endlessly about uncalled tripping and pushing fouls by that rough opposing team . . .

Posted by: kbatl | September 27, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Some other quotes from that same Roosevelt speech:

" The man must be glad to do a man's work, to dare and endure and to labor; to keep himself, and to keep those dependent upon him. The woman must be the housewife, the helpmeet of the homemaker, the wise and fearless mother of many healthy children."

"The Philippines offer a yet graver problem. their population includes halfcaste and native Christians, warlike Moslems, and wild pagans. Many of their people are utterly unfit for self-government, and show no signs of becoming fit."

Posted by: Strenuous Life | September 27, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I took my son to a 18 yr old girls travel soccer game at the field where we normally play. The girls were very impressive, running hard, passing, playing wth passion. As a coach (even of a modest 6 yr old team)I was filled with pride for those players and secretly yearned to see my kids playing with that intensity. I then snapped back to reality and my son and I went and bought a coke. I think it was good for him to see people really playing.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

My 70 year old Father-in-law is still a very poor loser. He pouts, and basically acts like a toddler. I blame it on the fact that he never learned to be a graceful loser. (There are other issues wrt to his childhood). I absolutely hate to play board games or cards with him!
Losing at Candyland was one of the hardest lesson that my now 11 year old had to learn when she was around 3 or 4 years old. Remember, parents need to teach life skills to their children including dealing with failure and disappointment.

Posted by: Anon | September 27, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

STRENOUS LIFE-another quote, this one from ABRAHAM LINCOLN


"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Lincoln said this at one time, guess we should forget about the emancipation proclamation and tear down the Lincoln memorial while we are at it according to your implied logic.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

5 or 6 is just too young to focus on winning. Learning the sport and having fun and starting a life of fitness is appropriate for this age. On the other hand, to take a kid out of a sport for being too competitive is just crazy and very poor parenting. They couldn't come up with better that that?

People who coach this age should do a little research. There are plenty of materials out there on drills and games that teach skills while the kids are having too much fun to even know that. All practices should end with something fun. Playing chase the coaches is a good one.

I pulled my son from soccer too young because he didn't have the focus to play. I should have kept him in a year or two longer just so that could learn the game. He didn't need to be good at it -- just good enough to be able to have fun with the other kids. There are lots of sports out there and you need to find the right one for your kid but I feel that soccer and baseball/softball are skills that all kids should have, like swimming and riding a bike.

My DD is now playing soccer at the highest level of competition that can be played at her age. She's very good. At 5/6 she was completely lost on the field and her coach was brutal on her. I almost didn't sign her up at 7 but the assistant coach talked me into it. That year she played on a team with some wonderful players and she was inspired to find the talent she had inside of her.

She still isn't as into winning as I would like but she cares deeply about being on the field and not on the sidelines and that is her inspiration to play her best. Competitive players are expected to have good sportsmanship, no exceptions. Getting started with that at an early age is important.

Parents should learn early on to keep quiet on the sidelines and let the coaches coach. Your job is to make sure your kid has water and a hug when the game is over.

Posted by: free bird | September 27, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

G-d bless my wonderful grandmother. She always let me win. I think she thought it was my parents job to teach me all that, so she just wanted to have fun with me.

Posted by: atlmom | September 27, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

pATRICK

"Lincoln said this at one time, guess we should forget about the emancipation proclamation and tear down the Lincoln memorial while we are at it according to your implied logic. "

You need to talk to some REAL people.

Posted by: Sally | September 27, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

pAT. My point in quoting from the exact same speech, was that some quotes are better taken out of context, that TR was a war-mongering manifest destiny yahoo, and that before we blindly quote someone, it might be best to examine from where that quote originated, what its original intent was, etc.

Posted by: SL | September 27, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Thank you MaryL! Indeed, that is why I indicated it is her swim team coach not a swimming instructor. To join a swim team you must be able to pass a rather rigorous test.

Posted by: 21117 | September 27, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: SL | September 27, 2007 12:07 PM

No way to that, TR was a great man and did many great things. Including a nobel peace prize, getting the panama canal built, safegurading national wonders among others. You pulled parts of a speech that were uttered in 1900 and applied them to our PC society.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"You pulled parts of a speech that were uttered in 1900 and applied them"

I thought that's what you did too?

The speech was a chest-thumper about expanding military efforts in the Phillipeans, Cuba and Hawaii, to save the pagans with war and drive out the Spanish. Glorious triumphs indeed.

Posted by: SL | September 27, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Your first post sought to discredit what I posted by posting other parts of his speech that would discount him. No man is pure and often utter good and bad things and to dismiss TR as a manifest destiny yahoo is wrong just as it would be wrong to dismiss abraham lincoln as a racist based on what he wrote at one time.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

The other parts of the speech don't "discount him". They put the original quote in context. Read the whole speech. It's fascinating. It actually sounds like something Bush might deliver today.

I think the original quote is lovely as long as you ignore where it came from.

Posted by: SL | September 27, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Well, agreeing to disagree and moving on... I played a coach who was like vince lomabardi, he shouted out plays while on the field. RABBIT! RABBIT! John!, LION! LION! Chris!. At halftime my asst coach was laughing and said we should come up with names for our plays. I suggested BINKY. BINKY!BINKY!Kyle!. We died laughing at his silliness.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Well, agreeing to disagree and moving on..."

Thank God! What a crashing bore! Your ass would have been kicked on my playground on a regular basis!

Did you get enough attention as a child? It's too late now.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: | September 27, 2007 01:41 PM

Apparently IT is back and posting anonymously after being run out of ON BALANCE yet again. yawn.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

lol...I'm thinking of my kids' football coach yelling from the sidelines..."binky! Binky!"...talk about a visual...thanks for the smile pATRICK

"G-d bless my wonderful grandmother. She always let me win. I think she thought it was my parents job to teach me all that, so she just wanted to have fun with me."

Posted by: atlmom

I just wanted to have fun with my kids, too, until they started roundly trouncing me in checkers! :)

Posted by: momof3boys | September 27, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Posted by atlmom @ September 27, 2007 11:59 AM

"G-d bless my wonderful grandmother. She always let me win. I think she thought it was my parents job to teach me all that, so she just wanted to have fun with me."

There are ways you can do this without actually throwing the game. If they are into it, you can learn a lesson in humility by challenging kids at Video Games if they are interested in that sort of thing.

It doesn't have to be Halo. A classic like Tetris is competitive, and being repeatedly beaten by a son or daughter can give you plenty of time modeling how to loose with grace, as well as possibly how to win on occasion jus to keep them on their toes.

Posted by: David S | September 27, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

atlmom,

Letting you win *every* time is just a little too obvious for me ;-) I prefer finding a silent handicap that lets dd win about 2/3 of the time.

For example, my 2nd grader needed to practice her basic addition and subtraction skills last week, for speed before they move to harder problems. So I played some rounds of addition war with her --- like the card game war but without face cards, only ace through ten, each player starts with half a deck and both players flip their next card on count of 3. The person who first calls out the correct sum of the 2 exposed cards wins both cards. Boy, she loved this game and it brought out a zest to win I've never seen in her before ;-) But I figured out her baseline speed, and counted 2-3 seconds in my head before starting my own mental calculation. That way she's still pushed to compete, she has a decent chance of beating me, but there's still some suspense, it's not a gimme . . . . and she did get faster as we played . . . I've done the same game as multiplication war, good for 3rd grade timestable memorizing . . .

If you want a game you can lose even doing your honest all-out best, play Count Olaf in the Unfortunate Events board game. The kids always win by a mile. Soon enough my kids found such fore-ordained wins dull and tried to think of ways to rejigger the rules so that Count Olaf can at least threaten to win . . .

Posted by: kbatl | September 27, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh...my...god...

They're FIVE AND SIX! Some five- and six-year-olds can't even play pretend yet without taking it personally! And you're sticking them in soccer games?! I understand wanting to let them run off energy and socialize, but then they need a soccer CLUB, not a soccer team. They should be allowed to learn the rules and practice and play around until they're maybe seven without competing, and parents who really care should make it a point to find some soccer games to take their kids to watch.

Seriously, it's developmentally unreasonable to ask five-year-olds to "perform" like that. God, I thought this shyte started at seven.

For the dad that "evolved"...um...did you actually address the hurt you did him while he was young and internalizing everything, or did you just change your attitude? I'm sure he appreciates the relaxed approach, but he might need a more overt gesture if you haven't proffered one.

That said, once the kid hits seven or so, yes winning and losing is a necessary part of competition, but by then, most kids have already learned it at school, even if you haven't bothered to express it to them.

Posted by: Kat | September 27, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

KAT, umm, do you have a 6 year old? Several of mine can kick a ball 10-15 yards, in the air and dribble circles around people. Maybe you are unaware of the abilities of 6 year olds

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I have a four year old and I've taught preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. Good for YOUR kids, shyte for kids who CAN'T DO IT at that age, pAT.

Posted by: Kat | September 27, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Good for YOUR kids, shyte for kids who CAN'T DO IT at that age, pAT.

First off, they are not MY kids, they are my players, some can kick very well, some can't. As a "teacher' you should know that kids have varying skills. The ones who can't do that, are learning as best they can. This is a Y league not MLS.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 27, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Kat @ September 27, 2007 03:03 PM

"Seriously, it's developmentally unreasonable to ask five-year-olds to "perform" like that. God, I thought this shyte started at seven."

Aside from the large amount of variation between physical age and developmental age, Age 6 is not a bad time to start your child on a competitive sports team. That is about the time when children will begin to become more independant, and sport (particularly team sports) can give the right balance.

I will say that uncertainty how to deal with failure is reasonably common, but that just increases the role of parents, teachers, or coaches in demonstrating the appropriate way to handle loosing.

I might point at this publication which was released by Professor Karen DeBord. It is a little bit edu-speak filled, but since you are a teacher, I do not think that will be a great difficulty for you:

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs465.pdf

Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Anonymous at 4:26 pm: This article defines "middle childhood" kind of broadly, from entering school (around 5 or 6) to hitting puberty (around 10 or 12). In fact, it also includes some markers that are present in children as young as 3, such as the ability to form beliefs based on what is accepted in the home.

I'm talking about a very specific age group with, yes, a lot of variation in abilities to cope, but I have met/worked with enough kids at the age of 6 who would TOTALLY forget they're playing a game and sit down in the field to pick grass, or decide they didn't want to play a whole game anymore, and walk away or throw a tantrum. At that point, adults "demonstrating sportsmanship" to them is a lot like press-ganging them into playing.

From that article:

Six- to 8-year-olds can rarely sit for
longer than 15-20 minutes for an
activity. Attention span gets longer with
age.

Attention span does not just depend on amount of physical activity. It depends on interest and the child's personal ability to deal with it. This is why I suggested parents showing interest in real soccer matches, and perhaps making a day out of attending one (picnic, etc) so the kid grows up to a capable age WANTING to compete, WANTING to take sides, and SEEING from the outside that it is OK to lose.

And pATRICK, I habitually refer to all my students as "my kids" when talking about them. I don't understand your determination to distance yourself from them semantically.

Posted by: Kat | September 27, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"This is why I suggested parents showing interest in real soccer matches, and perhaps making a day out of attending one (picnic, etc) so the kid grows up to a capable age WANTING to compete, WANTING to take sides, and SEEING from the outside that it is OK to lose."

Attending a match might be a great way to raise a spectator, but it is unlikely to spur an interest in playing. Most kids do not want to compete, they want to run around and play ball. Then, they get on a team, develop camraderie, feel the endorphins coursing through their veins as it does from physical activity - not staring glazed-eyed at a field -- and, eventually, they want to win. None of that comes from watching someone else have fun. Life is about doing, not watching.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

... what's wrong with going to war with the pagans and driving out the Spanish? Ain't that what we're trying to do now too?

;)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I have never coached, but I have been a parent at plenty of games. I have often wondered why a coach every now and then might not have the terms of victory be something very private for his team. For instance, suppose a soccer coach said to his team, "I don't want you to score any points this game. But I will count it as a point every time I see three passes before a shot on goal." In effect, they are simply playing a different game from the other team, with its own terms, and increasing their skills without always buying into the ordinary terms of victory.

Posted by: Jason | September 27, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Anonymous @ 6:01

I have a friend who plays professional baseball who would beg to differ.

Also, I DID suggest watching the games in conjunction with the soccer club, not just watching games, but playing around as well.

Posted by: Kat | September 28, 2007 1:07 AM | Report abuse

This is a hard one to balance.

As an uber competitive perfectionist myself, I know the downsides of crying because you "only made second place." It's worse when people come to EXPECT greatness because then when you get the lower score, it's a much bigger deal, and you don't get the recognition that a lot of the "surprise performers" do.

It also leads to burn out. Yeah, sure, the world is competitive. So what? What do we want kids to be with THEIR lives? This focus on competition is what forces kids to need all those caffeine drinks and never have time to learn about themselves or their relationships and think they constantly need to be the best- to get into the best schools- to get into the best jobs- to make the best money....to have kids and teach them the exact same patterns.

There needs to be a lot more focus on doing what's right for you, on having the skills and focus to go where you want to go and where you feel you need to be. Not where "the world" tells you that you "should be."

Learning how to win and lose well, learning how to play games with others and learning the thrill of winning and the cut of defeat and still come out the next day ok are all very vital skills.

Competition itself? Winning? Not so much.

Posted by: Liz D | September 28, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

This is part of the sicification of America. There are winners and losers in life. In the game of life you will loose a great deal more often than you win. It is what you do with failure that determines the outcome of your life. Aside from assuring their safety, your only goal as a parent is to prepare your children for life. If the kids in the game know the score, the score matters. If they are so young they do not know the score it's not important.
In life you rarely get to make the rules yourself. You can't play by your own rules. Everyone does not win. The goal of the game is to score more goals than the other team, period. When they watch a real soccer game, nobody will keep track of the number of passes, only the number of goals.

Posted by: Michael | October 6, 2007 1:21 AM | Report abuse

like vince lombardi says - "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?"

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2007 8:53 PM | Report abuse

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