Friday, May 13, 2011

No such thing as a second place winner

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Educating our children is always one of our biggest concerns. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear or read about some aspect of education.

Many profess alarm that America’s youth have fallen behind their counterparts in other counties. Many suggestions and opinions are offered to put American kids back “on track.”

As usual, there are too many American’s whose ultra-liberal opinions seem to carry the day. And, as usual, they are dead wrong. Legislators and self-proclaimed education “experts” who are flapping their jaws about year-round school, for example, are probably parents themselves who cringe that they are keeping score at their kid’s soccer games.

Sports and life are intertwined. Parents who interfere in either, or both, are usually doing their children more harm than good.

An example is parents who call a newspaper office and complain that their little “Johnny” did not have his photo in the paper and the paper should be ashamed of itself for not giving “Johnny” his moment in the sun. After all, the parent will say, “Johnny” works just as hard on the JV squad as his varsity counterparts. Or, there is the parent who will complain that their kid didn’t make the paper from a particular game and we should rectify the situation because their kid “deserves” to be publicized. (Please note: we do not photograph “players,” we photograph the game.)

A couple of lessons are to be learned from this. First, life isn’t fair. Second, let “Johnny” pay his dues, just as the rest of the varsity team did. With rare exceptions, they had to earn their way to win a varsity spot. There are two key words there that too few of our kids know much about - earn and win.

When our kids are in first or second grade and participate in a sport, it is fine to give everyone a ribbon or a medal for participation or good sportsmanship. But there are way too many wishy-washy parents out there who think that keeping score can make a kid feel bad because he or she will be devastated to find out that he or she did not win.

Guess what folks? If you want to be a success as an adult, you have to learn about competition. You must learn about winning and you must learn about losing. It is part of life.

Sure, kids are going to cry if they lose. As a parent, you feel for them. But you don’t create a winner by creating an environment where everyone who shows up “wins.”

I can remember when I was a kid, playing my dad in checkers. He would teach me the game and we would play. He would always win. I can vividly remember being upset at one point and asking my dad, “why don’t you ever let me win?” His answer was, “If I let you win, you will never learn to win on your own.” It hurt at the time, but not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the lesson he taught me. I eventually learned to play well enough to beat him, not always, but I learned how to win.

Parents need to learn that there is no entitlement for our children. We cannot live life for them and, while it hurts a little, learning how about losing is a part of life.

In case someone is not getting the message about what winning or losing at a school-level sport has to do with life, if you don’t learn about winning and losing in school, you are destined to get your butt kicked in life.

American kids need to learn that competition can be brutal. They need to learn, at a younger age, that not everyone makes the varsity team. They need to learn that if you are not gifted with God-given athletic ability, you have to work harder to make the team. You have to want that varsity spot bad enough be willing to work for it. Too many of our kids do not know anything about hard work.

Kids need to learn to lose gracefully but to never be satisfied with losing. They need to learn to fight their own battles, both literally and figuratively.

Children, and adults, in other parts of the world are winning the sporting events and the jobs because they still grow up learning to fight to win, to succeed in life. Americans don’t like to hear that. We are too busy still living off the reputation earned by our parents and grandparents.

A reality in life that we had better learn, before it is too late, is - there is no such thing as a second place winner.

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