posted by Joe Anaya on August 26th, 2011

When my kid was 7 years old he was at a karate tournament and received a Participation Medal. Now I’m all for little kids (I’m talking about three to six years old) feeling good about participating. I’ve coached my share of sports teams that don’t keep score and just celebrate the kids learning the rules and having fun playing at the sport. But at some age, they need to start learning about winning and losing. Because that really is how most of life works.

Our daily lives are a competition. We compete for jobs, promotion, even women. It is in our male DNA and/or upbringing; boy’s are competitive and winning does matter. Whether it’s the NCAA Final Four, speed chess, Battle of the Bands or even shooting rogue squadrons in our living room, we love to compete and win and naturally talk our friends into playing games that we think we can win.

Don’t get me wrong. Winning is NOT the only thing. Being a good person, respecting others, blah, blah blah. But let’s face it; it is easier to have fun when you are winning; people like you more when you’re a winner. There’s no way that kid would be on Letterman if she hadn’t won the National Spelling Bee. It doesn’t really help the “entitlement” generation to make them think they will win at everything they try. Sometimes you have to try harder. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, someone else is better. That’s life.

So, after a day of hurry-up-and-waiting, a hot dog and popcorn being the healthiest choices for lunch, and schedule delays, my son is half asleep as he loses in the first round of his sparring competition. After the awards ceremony, he waves the medal at me and proclaims, “Look I won!” Now maybe it was because I know he went deep into the competition last year against older boys and won’t suffer low self-esteem, maybe I had low blood-sugar and didn’t like having a “medal” shoved in my face, or maybe I just felt it was time for him to learn; I let loose, “Dude, you didn’t win; you showed up.” And after a split second I add, “And that’s a first step, but don’t confuse it with winning.”



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