I have been involved in competitive sports since the age of seven. I began as a competitive gymnast (through High School) as well as being a competitive Figure Skater. I skated competitively until my early twenties and then I skated professionally for the Ice Capades. Of course now I am a professional drag racer as well as President (and driver) of my team, Dina Parise Racing (along with my husband). So, although my husband Andrew and I do not have children, I can tell you I am experienced enough to touch on the subject I am about to. Strap yourselves in, because for some of you, this may be a bumpy ride.
The Thrill of Competition: I’m competitive, and I make no bones about it. I like to win. But, I am not a ‘sore loser’. Do I LIKE to lose, well, of course not. What losing does is it makes me work harder toward the next competition/race and next win; Plain and simple.
I grew up competing in two sports ; One being both individual as well as team (gymnastics) and the other only individual (Figure Skating). In each sport I practiced, working toward competition days. Either I did well, and won a medal or a trophy by placing first, second or third or I did not. That was how it worked. Things essentially have not changed much to this day, or have they?
Sports as we all know can be either judged, timed or scoring depending on the ‘type’ of sport. Regardless of the determining factors, a winner and a runner-up are always part of the outcome. It is a fact. Or is it? Seems that today the ‘powers that be’ want to change the win/lose rule when it comes to children and sports. Someone decided that there need be NO runner-ups. The new motto is ‘Everyone’ is a winner’. I’m sorry, but I just cannot agree with that, and neither should you.
The Agony of Defeat: As a kid, I remember competing and ‘wiping up the ice’ as we called it. It meant I had a bad day. I fell a few times during my routine and did not do well; therefore not scoring well enough to receive a trophy. My Mom would never ‘beat me up’ (verbally of course) about it. She would just say, “OK, well that certainly was not your best. Tomorrow is another day. Work harder and you will get it next time.” Then we would go to Friendly’s for some consolation Ice Cream and be done with it. No trophy, just a pat on the back and a ‘better luck next time’. I’m none the worse for wear for it either. Actually, I’m a better competitor for it. It makes me want it more, and makes me work harder. I don’t expect anything to be handed to me. Kids today should not either. By doing that, we are doing them (the kids) a dis-service.
Handling defeat should not be a ‘bad thing’. We will all see some sort of defeat or rejection in our lives won’t we? If kids today do not learn how to deal with defeat now, what will happen later in life when they go for a job interview and maybe do not get the job? They will be devastated, right? Life is NOT a bowl of cherries people! I’m not trying to be ‘Debbie Downer’ here, but come on! It may not SEEM relative, but it’s all part of survival skills for them. It’s like not telling them to look both ways before crossing the street, eventually……Well, you get the picture, right? The outcome is not a good one. Nor will it be here.
How to Succeed: Ask any professional athlete (myself included) and I can guarantee they disagree with the new ‘everyone gets a trophy’ tactic. If they did, winning a championship would not taste as sweet would it? Another confusing new tactic is not keeping score. If we were to not keep score in professional sports, what would be the point? Just to pay to see them play, eat popcorn and go home? Seems silly right? Yes, not keeping score is silly, no matter your age. Scoring is kept not only in sports. Think merely about games children will play that include keeping score, all the way to test scores in school. If we cannot give them the tools to work hard toward a common goal in a ‘fun’ environment, how do we encourage them to apply themselves to enhance their own lives? We need to let them know, failure or loss of a game is part of life just as winning is. As the great Michael Jordan said “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, lost almost 300 games, missed the game-winning shot 26 times. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Apparently success does include failure. We need not be so afraid to fail or to let children fail. In the end, it will make them stronger and more willing to work for what they want. Not to mention, teaching them sportsmanship in the process.
Recently I had the honor of assisting some amazing up and coming drivers in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, NC. The kids drive a half-scale Dragster beginning at the age of 8 through to the age of 18. As with the adults in our sport, there is one winner and one runner-up. At the events there can be upwards of 50 kids/cars per event and the only winners will be those that make it into the final rounds; that being the last few. Everyone knows that going in, and has no issue with it. As a matter of fact, many kids once knocked out will root for their friends and fellow track mates. Sportsmanship that is what it is all about.
Sportsmanship: All of the aforementioned factors (not keeping score, trophies for everyone) leads me to another subject, intertwined with the rest; sportsmanship. The art of gracious winning or losing needs to be instilled in us early on in our ‘sports careers’. Of course no one wants to be defeated, but it happens. Being the winner happens as well. If as children score is not kept, or everyone wins, how do we teach sportsmanship? Once score becomes part of the game and trophies are not given at will, how do you teach them to handle either side graciously? If they are not accustomed to a win/loss situation, it is the equivalent of getting hit over the head with an anvil. It hurts and creates confusion. Don’t let them be afraid of not winning. Encourage them to work harder and be the best THEY can be creating confidence. The end result will be a well-rounded athlete and person able to handle whatever comes their way.
Win, lose play the game. That is the short and the long of it. Don’t complicate it by changing the rules. Let kids be kids. Let them go and have fun, make friends and wonderful memories! I can tell you I have plenty from competing as a kid, even when I didn’t win! Now get outta here and ask your kids what sport they would like to be involved in! Sign them up and be supportive! Have fun!
As for me, I am waiting for my new Cadillac CTSV Pro Mod to arrive! I am looking forward to getting in my new whip and getting down the track!
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