Is Winning Everything?

This past week, my son and my nephew went to baseball camp together. My nephew is an amazing athlete – we’ve always marveled at how agile and capable he was, even as a young child,  and he continues to develop his athleticism. At the baseball camp they had “contests” for the fastest runner round the bases, the best infielder and the best outfielder. Technically, my nephew won two of the three contests but he was “only allowed to win one,” so they took the other away from him.

I pondered this approach because as a mother I can relate to the desire to teach kids that it isn’t all about winning, but rather about doing your best. Don’t all mothers want their kids to be a “success” at whatever they choose to do? But, as a business person and objective observer hearing my nephew calmly talk about how he had to say he was disqualified, in order for the other “winner” to save face, I also thought how unfair it is to take away the award from a child because he, or she, is more proficient than others in more than one area.

It’s a tough balance in our culture, because when children get out into the real world, the truth is that there are those who get the gold ring and those who don’t. There ARE winners and then there are people who compete, but don’t get the winning ticket. We can’t deny this forever, or protect our kids from the pain of loss for their entire lives. But, as mothers we don’t want our kids to feel hurt or defeated, and we often try and protect them as long as we can!

Our approach to competing, winning and gaining an award has much to do with our own filters and what we believe to be fair or unfair. After this incident with my nephew, I started to poll people on their viewpoint about what had happened. There were two clear camps – often it was the moms who thought it was nice that others had a chance to also win, and often the dads who felt it was preposterous that an award could be taken from a child who worked for it and deserved it. What was interesting to me was the passion with which a parent could debate their position on the topic.

It’s a good reminder about how often we view things as black and white – or right and wrong. I can honestly say I see both sides of the discussion and think both have merit. I probably come down more firmly on the side of wanting the true winner to have both awards if that is what they earned, but maybe my view is colored because in this case it was my nephew!

This week, try and watch yourself engaging in an inner or an outer dialogue about what’s “right” or “fair” and what’s not. We become so attached to our view that we don’t realize it is still OUR view, and others are also entitled to their opinion, even though we may disagree. Watch the tendency to label the person “bad,” or wrong, instead of realizing it’s simply a difference in viewpoint.