I would highly encourage you to read this article from Barnabas Piper at WorldMag.com. The article discusses the consequences of calling “everyone a winner” in sports. If you know of someone who coaches kids–pass this article on to them. Below are some excerpts followed by my thoughts:
Sometime over the past few decades a mindset of “fair” has developed, calling for everyone to finish in the exact same place and receive the exact same reward. Fair has become equity in the finish instead of equity in the process. This perspective says a reward is due just for showing up, not because it’s earned. It cheapens real rewards for actual successes, and as it creeps into different areas of life, it undermines valuable assets such as hard work or giftedness.
Naturally, accompanying this mindset is the idea that “everyone is a winner.” This is especially prevalent in teaching, coaching, and parenting younger children. I understand why this attitude prevails. Nobody wants a child to feel like a loser. Nobody wants a child to feel shame and sense that she is less significant because of a failure or because she was outdone. But saying “we’re all winners” doesn’t help much when the child eventually loses, and not keeping track of the score at peewee soccer or T-ball games can’t fend off reality forever. Everyone loses sometime.
I agree with Barnabas–we need to teach kids how to win well and how to lose well. We need to harness the lessons learned on the court/field to teach the kids (and prepare the kids) for life. Amen on that, Barnabas!
In the midst of this though, we do need to consider a couple of things. For example, should you keep score with kids who are say, 4 years old? Are they really ready to cope with harsh realities of winning and losing? Some would say, “Yes, absolutely! It’s going to be hard to learn about winning and losing regardless of their age.” Others would say, “The kids are too young. We need to treat them like a young plant in a greenhouse. They need nourishment before being planted outside. In other words, kids need to be prepared in an encouraging environment before being thrown into the fire.”
One last thing to consider. When teaching kids how to win well and lose well, we need to be sure to teach them about the power of sports. Winning and performing well, like anything else, can be so intoxicating that it can become an idol. In the midst of winning, we need to teach kids what place winning should have in our hearts. Winning is a good desire but a bad goal.