Are We Raising Whiners or Winners?

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My son is only three so I still consider myself a new parent. He is too young to participate in group sports but I am quickly learning that the nature of competitive sports is changing. I've heard that in some leagues all of the children participating receive trophies - both the winners and the losers. I truly believe in building self-esteem but I wonder about the necessity of taking such measures to prevent children from being upset because of a loss. At least, I assume that is the rationale for this type of action.


Soccer Game

Today I read about a Canadian children's soccer league that is taking this to an extreme. Children are now being penalized for being successful! The National Post ran a story titled, "Win a soccer game by more than five points and you lose." When I saw this title I had to blink twice to ensure that I'd read it correctly. In the Gloucester Recreational Soccer league there is a five point "mercy" regulation, any points over a five point differential do not count. This particular league is for children ranging from age 4 -17. They will play by this rule until next season when the coaches will evaluate the players and then arrange the teams so that they are balanced. Call me crazy but I thought the entire point of group sports was to teach teamwork, a competitive spirit, leadership and camaraderie. However, the actions by this Ottawa league seem to encourage mediocrity. Kevin, a 17 year old player in the league commented "People grow in adversity, they don’t really get worse…. I think you’ll see more leadership skills being used if a losing team tries to recuperate than if they never got into that situation at all.”

These are sage words of wisdom from a young man that has played with the league for five years.

As a child, I played all types of sports and when we lost as a team or if I was running track and lost a race, I was encouraged to try harder the next time and go for the win. If anything, losing provided me with the determination to hone my skills so that I could be successful the next time. My mother encouraged me at an early age, her adage which sticks with me today is "nothing beats a failure but a try". Apparently some parents of children in the Gloucester league don't agree and encouraged the adoption of the new ruling.

Some parents believe it s more important for things to be "fair" than to teach children about reality. What type of life skills are these children being taught? Don't do you your best because you will not be rewarded? The world does not work this way. Imagine if this same rule was applied in the classroom, a child that gets a perfect score on an exam fails because the other children do not do as well. Coddling our children in this way will handicap them and hinder their growth and development.

As a parent, I know my child will not excel at every sport, school subject, or extracurricular activity. But it is my responsibility to encourage my child to explore the possibilities - to try new things, discover his strengths and improve in areas where he is not strong. Life is not a level playing ground and I would never want to stifle his development by constructing artificial rules that do not apply in the real world.

What do you think? With rulings like the one the Canadian league has adopted, are we raising whiners or winners?

If you like these types of debates, read the blogs of  these highly opinionated BlogHers:

Velveteen Mind

Mom on the Rise

My Brown Baby

Renee is a BlogHer Contributing editor and the author of the blog,Cutie Booty Cakes

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