Winning…If It Isn’t So Important, Why Does it Feel So Good?

Posted by Bryan Smith, Boys Town Press Author and Elementary School Counselor on Jul 8th 2019

This summer my family enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup. As the games went on, more and more questions came from my son. One stood out. “Dad, what’s a yellow card?” I was able to explain to him that a player is given a yellow card when they do something that is not allowed (push someone, trip someone, etc.). I told him it’s kind of like cheating to help your team win.

What a great opportunity to talk about sportsmanship, and how it’s more important than winning. Soon after that, my son was pointing out when people were helping other players up when they fell down, and even how sometimes opposing teams would hug each other after the game was over. I am so fortunate my son learned this valuable lesson just as the school year is about to start. So many times things become a competition in school. Whether it’s a simple spelling game or who’s first in line, kids feel they need to win.

We as adults need to remember that these situations open up the door for a great conversation on sportsmanship, manners and social skills. Our goal should be to encourage children to always have a winning attitude but in the end, understand winning really isn’t everything.

Tips for parents or teachers:

  1. Children are always looking at you as an example. Make sure  you show good sportsmanship at their games, while watching sports on TV, or while attending any other sporting event.
  2. Whether your team wins or loses a game, make sure to point out anything positive they did:
    • Great job shaking hands after the game.
    • I’m proud of you for telling Erin good game.
    • Great job hustling to get to that ball.
  3. If you see someone not showing good sportsmanship, make a point to explain why you feel that way to your child. Start a discussion by asking questions like:
    • What could that player have done differently?
    • How would that make you feel if you were treated that way?
    • What could you say to help that player be a better sportsman?
  4. Role-play situations where there is someone bragging and how they could respond. If you need extra resources on bragging get  Well, I Can Top That! by Julia Cook from the Boys Town Press.
  5. Make it a point to focus on your child’s effort on anything they do, rather than the final product.

For a great story that provides opportunities to discuss this topic with your students or children, check out my book,  If Winning Isn’t Everything ,Why Do I HATE to Lose?, from the Boys Town Press.

Bryan Smith comes from a family of educators. He has worked in the education field for more than 15 years. Bryan began his career as an elementary school teacher before realizing he had a talent for helping children deal with difficult issues. He has since become a school counselor, where he flourishes teaching students life skills that will take them far and help them succeed. His stories address topics like sportsmanship, executive functions, self-control and self-acceptance that motivate, educate and inspire children.

Bryan and his wife have two children. His books have been recognized by The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval.