We play to win

Winning isn’t everything. Says the loser. Well no, it’s not EVERYTHING. But it counts for something. Because the reality is there are winners and there are losers. And you have to figure out how to do both. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. So learn to celebrate with dignity. And surrender with grace.

My son had his season end basketball tournament this past weekend. His team {head coached by my husband} went into it as the number one seed, with only one loss all season. So it meant a day of anticipation, some big hopes and a whole lot of energy. Because even though this isn’t NCAA March Madness™ it’s fifth grade matchups and that’s kind of the same thing. It was a full day of adrenaline and excitement. Sweating. A bounty of nerves. Hearts beating outside the chest. Shaking. Shouting. Jumping. Oh, and then whatever else the kids were experiencing. Because I’m just talking about the parents. We were a mess. You would have thought we were competing for the title rather than watching from the sidelines. I don’t usually consider myself terribly competitive but clearly that’s buffoonery. For real. I could not control myself. Generally speaking, the fiercely competitive nature runs thick through my husband’s veins. He is die-hard. And that same drive was unquestionably passed down to our son. So I’ve always been kind of impartial along the way since they had more than enough to go around. For me; win or lose, life goes on. But then as my son has gotten older, I’ve found myself a lot more invested…and competitive. So I’m fairly certain I better teach my kids how you win. And how you lose. Because life is filled with competition and it’s not a game for participants. You don’t get warm fuzzies just for showing up. If that’s your expectation, you will never find your place. You work hard. And sometimes it pays off. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Participation in sports is good. It teaches engagement. Team work. Fundamentals. And hopefully it inspires kids to stay involved. But that song ends after a certain age. The whole “give everyone a trophy” can only go so far. Call it tough love but this household doesn’t ride that wagon. And I’m not ashamed to say that we just don’t fall in line with “everyone is a winner” because they’re not. Harsh? No. Reality? Yes. Society has gone overboard with giving kids praise for every little thing they do. It promotes a warped sense of one’s own self-importance and is partially to blame for the entitled behaviors that so many youth display these days. And entitled youth become narcissistic adults. {Just what the world needs more of}. Is it important to encourage kids and give them a chance to succeed? Of course. That’s how every child starts out. But once the foundation is laid, you don’t keep pouring cement. You start building around it. And for us, we take on the responsibility of teaching our children to put in their greatest efforts and to play to win. Will they win every time? No. So when they lose it becomes a teaching moment. Embrace that. And don’t be the one raising poor winners and sore losers.

Life is hard. Parenting is hard. There are days when I question if anything we say is resonating with our oldest. He’s an awesome kid. Always has been. But he’s growing up and testing his independence. And sometimes that comes with some attitude and an ego. But this past weekend I had a couple different parents/grandparents from the other teams come up and ask me if I was 25’s mom. We play to win (2)Oh God, was I yelling that loud? Did they hear me shout at him to stay on that kid? Or maybe it was when I launched out of my seat to cheer when he made a stellar assist or landed a sweet shot? I mean, my voice was a bit hoarse after four games. So I squeaked out a yes. And then they proceeded to tell me how much fun it was to watch my son play. How athletic he is. And more importantly, what a great sport and teammate he was on the court. Those brief conversations reminded me that I must be doing something right. And while I can’t take much credit for the athleticism, I can assure he’s being taught what it means to win. Lose. And the lessons in between.

You have kids for three reasons. 1) To relive the best of your own childhood 2) To torture them with because I said so and 3) To cheer them on in life and watch them succeed. And maybe a few other reasons. But these can’t be argued. Growth and change are amazing to watch. There isn’t a whole lot better than seeing your child’s eyes filled with excitement, accomplishment and pride. And it’s a heck of a feeling when you can stand with the same kind of honor because you’re doing your part to raise a good human in a tough world. Their hard work paid off this year and the final game came down to the top two teams. Just as it should. And as the perfect setup goes, it was also the only team we lost to all season. With our number one seed and an uneven number of teams, we went into the game playing one more than the opponent so our kids were pretty gassed. But they’d waited all season for this and they weren’t about to give up their hard work for a consolation prize. Thank heavens I normally have low blood pressure because I’m certain my arteries got a good workout. It was intense. And close. But prevail, they did! And champions, they were. And the best part about it? They stood as a unified team with attitudes to be admired and a polished demeanor that would impress anyone {remember these are 5th graders}. They knew what the title meant but also understood that celebrating comes with notable conduct. And they nailed it. Because that’s how you win a game. On the court. And off the court.

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