Why your kids need to lose

What do our kids lose if sports become non-competitive?

By Jenny Charlesworth
Why your kids need to lose Photo by Xtalx, Flickr

Watching your little one lose on the soccer field can be heartbreaking because, let’s face it, losing isn’t fun for kids or parents. But it’s important. So Sports Canada’s latest proposal to introduce a national plan to emphasize player development over trophies and championships may not be the best thing for kids in the long-term.

As the Globe and Mail explains it, this about-face is filled with good intentions. Instead of feeling the pressure to score goals and take a back seat to star players, kids will be able to focus on developing their game skills and experimenting with different techniques. Say so long to score-keepers and the kids will be all smiles — that's the takeaway for parents. But aren't we cheating our children out of important life lessons?

My dad would probably say yes. Listen to him recount the childhood hockey games of my older brothers (one, a stick-handling superstar, the other, an uncoordinated kid with tons of heart) and the silver lining of all those losses becomes crystal clear.

Sportsmanship is a skill learned like any other. Likewise, just because you're in the winner's circle doesn't mean you know about perseverance or the self-confidence that can be gained from a comeback. Was it hard for my dad to watch my one brother struggle so much on the ice rink? Absolutely. But it also meant father-son chats about what it means to be a good sport and why "if first you don't succeed..."

Kids shouldn't be taught that goals reign supreme. But replacing sports tournaments with "festivals" where scores don't factor (as Sports Canada suggests in their plan) isn't the answer either. Losing might sting but let's not forget sometimes children benefit from not being No. 1.

*Photo from: Xtalx/Flickr

This article was originally published on Apr 30, 2012

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