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‘Whoever said, “it’s not whether you win or lose that counts”, probably lost.’

Martina Navratilova

I’ve always liked that quote of Martina, she was a great athlete and a consummate winner; she hated to lose. That’s basically how I was brought up – it was all about winning.  I never understood games where you did not keep score. Someone has to win, and I wanted that someone to be me! It seems to me that nowadays, everyone is a winner, no one is teaching children how to lose. Or do I have it wrong?

How can you play a game where there is no winner? I don’t think it’s positive for youth sports programmes to be taught in this way. Yes, it’s true that youth sport should be about having fun and learning a new skill, but competition is about learning how to win and learning to both avoid losing and coping with losing gracefully. I used to love to compete and I know many children still do now. The thrill of competing in class, on the playing field or even computer games is a vital part of childhood and teaches children vital lessons about the competitive nature of adult life. Not everyone can be great at everything. However, it is important to work hard – and the ability to win at something helps to instil this work ethic. It is important to keep score because that is a fact of life – in life you have winners and losers – there’s no point in hiding from the fact that sometimes you will lose, the earlier we learn to cope with this and learn from our defeats, the better.

Youth sport is the perfect place to teach children about winning and losing. We need to teach children that if they do their absolute best and are beaten by the better person then they can come away from that experience feeling satisfied with what they achieved and having learnt something new. You only really lose if you don’t get up the next day and try again. It is important not to reward children for just showing up, it is their effort and their attempt to their very best that actually makes the difference and should be praised. So I will close with another great quote:

‘The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.’

Vince Lombardi

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