The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, winning and losing is the essence of sports. As a society we play sports because there is a competitive fire deep down inside of us that pushes us to the next level seeking out victory. Even chess club members want to win each time they move a pawn or rook across a checkered board. In pick-up basketball the winner stays on the court, no one wants to leave the court.
Outside of sports winning and losing drives us to be the best we can in our professions. Whether it’s winning a contract to perform work, being hired over other candidates for a job, or being the number one rated non-daily newspaper in the state, winning and losing is prevalent in all aspects of our lives.
Winning isn’t everything, but learning how to win and accepting defeat are crucial lessons for children to learn growing up in the world today. I recently experienced something that was incredibly concerning to me about the lessons that we teach kids in today’s world.
A colleague of mine approached me in December about an opportunity to help him coach kids in a Tooele youth basketball league. The kids are in third and fourth grade and are just beginning to learn the intricate details about the game of basketball.
I agreed to help coach this youth basketball team. Anytime I get the opportunity to teach someone about the game of basketball is a thrilling experience for me. Even if only one or two kids listen to the advice and instructions I have to offer it’s worth it because the kid will be a much better basketball player because of it. I want to improve the basketball skills and ability of anyone that is willing to learn.
After several practices the games began in January. After two games our team was sitting with a 1-1 record. For such young kids I was more concerned about improvement from week to week rather than the numbers on the scoreboard, but even the kids want to know if they won or lost.
Before our third game of the season the league organizers held a brief coaches meeting to discuss some changes to the league. Since I was just an assistant I stayed with the kids and ran them through pregame warm-ups. When the meeting ended my friend informed me of the changes that were made.
The biggest change made was that the league would no longer be keeping score for games. I guffawed when my colleague informed me; I thought for sure he was joking. Allegedly some parents didn’t like the idea of their child’s basketball team losing a game. He was equally disappointed in the decision to not keep score.
The moment reminded me of a movie I had watched a week before starring Billy Crystal. In the movie, Parental Guidance, Crystal plays a minor league baseball play-by-play announcer who travels from San Francisco to Atlanta to visit with his grandchildren.
While in Atlanta Crystal attends his grandson’s little league baseball game. His grandson took the mound as a pitcher and threw three straight strikes to begin the game. Crystal was ecstatic about the strikeout, but his excitement became bewilderment as the batter stayed in the box and a fourth pitch was about to be thrown.
Crystal made a scene as he called out the game’s umpire of the foulness of not adhering to the rules of baseball. The ump informed Crystal that the batters swing away until they get a hit and that runs aren’t counted.
I was appalled by this scene in the movie but laughed because I didn’t think it was a true story. Low and behold, a week later I was coaching in a sports league that didn’t want to keep score because some feelings might get hurt.
If kids don’t learn how to win and lose now, how are they going to react later in life when they lose or they don’t get the job?
I don’t have kids, so maybe I view this differently than parents, but when I was a child I learned how to win and how to accept defeat.
I became a better worker and person because of my youthful sports experiences. The thrill of victory pushed me to continue to work hard. The agony of defeat inspired me to improve in all aspects of my life, both on the court or field and in the classroom and work setting.