I'll admit it. I'm competitive. I don't always have to be the best. In fact, I am a very gracious loser (because I do it pretty frequently). But I still love to compete.
I always have. My brother and I would race to see who would finish dinner first. My friends and I would race to see who could stuff the most marshmallows in our mouth. My husband and I talk smack and play Foosball. To me competing is fun.
And because of my love of competing and my inability to win everything, I have developed the amazing ability to be a good winner and a good loser. I think that is important. I also think it is something many kids are severely lacking.
When looking up competitive sports, I found so many more articles against competition than I found in favor of it. Perhaps that is because people don't understand that competition can be healthy!
When I see parents petitioning school or leagues to not keep score, I am shocked. Playing a sport should be that... playing. The act of participating itself should be fun. And it is OK to be upset when you don't win! It is not ok to be a poor sport.
Competing can create a great sense of self and improve self esteem. It fosters relationships, it teaches kids that hard work pays off, and it also teaches them that sometimes even when they try their best they may not win... and that is ok!
My children all play sports or do activities where they compete. And sure, a participation ribbon at the end of the year is nice but when I hear coaches who don't give out a game ball because they don't want anyone to feel left out, I can't help but think that the coach and the parents are failing their kids.
When I coached cheerleading each week, I picked a captain and co-captain. These girls may have been the best but, more importantly, they were girls who helped others to be their best. And then there was the spirit stick. A special award I gave to the girl who most embodied the spirit of cheerleading. They had to give a great effort, smile, try, and cheer on their teammates. They didn't have to be good. They just had to do their best. The result was that I had a team of girls who supported each other, encouraged each other, and learned to be proud of those who go the awards even when it meant they did not receive it.
If we don't allow our kids the chance to lose, we don't give them a chance to learn to try harder. When they aren't allowed to fail for fear of how it will effect their developing emotions or self esteem, we are not allowing them to become resilient. When they do get to a point in their lives where, as parents, we can not demand they get a participation trophy, when they do finally lose to someone else... they won't know how to handle it.
If they don't ever lose they can never truly win. So while I can understand parents wanting to save their kids the heartache and disappointment of not coming in first, especially at a young age, I truly feel we need to let them compete. Let them learn that playing should be a game, and it should be fun, and it's ok to loose. And then too they will learn to be a gracious winner and to praise the other competitors for their efforts.
Remember the saying "It's not whether you win or loose, but how you play the game?"
Because when you can lose and still hold your head high and comeback and play again you truly are a winner. But when you win and can look on the opponent with respect, then you are a champion.