Common Myths About Winning and Losing in Competitive Sports and Life

Myth: Winning in competitive sports is not  the most important thing – it is the only thing.

The Reality: Imposing the goals of professional sport on 6-12 year old children tends to “back fire”. Children will lower their aspirations below normal as a response Young athletes tend to maintain a challenging but realistic goal as their target even when faced with fluctuating success/failure.

Myth:  Nice kids /teams finish last.

The Reality:People who feel this way tend to also be those who believe in winning above all else. Children’s sport provides an environment for kids/teams to challenge themselves and each other to play at the best level they can. The wins and losses experienced in this environment provide valuable lessons about perceived success and failure, learning from mistakes, and mutual respect.

Myth: There are born winners and born losers.

The Reality: All children will experience successes and failures, wins and losses. Children are positively or negatively affected by winning and losing through their interaction with the people (coaches, teachers, parents) who set the standards and targets for effort and goal attainment.

Myth: Competition is not good for children’s physical and physical and psychological health.

The Reality: Social environments for children which provide mental challenges promote healthy outcomes, when the values of winning and losing is placed in a perspective of learning and growing.

Myth: Competition is not fun for children.

The Reality: Children who participate in sport to enhance their skills, achieve goals, to be part of a team, and to be challenged find competition very enjoyable. Again, when the focus of the competitive experience extends beyond winning, and the child is being challenged and having success experiences, competition is fun.

Myth:Dropout is due to competitive emphasis or dislike for the coach.

The Reality: While there are examples in which excessive pressure and poor coach relations can lead to dropout, it is also true that as children develop they may discover new interests, perhaps other sports or different activities altogether. The important thing is that a child values physical activity and sport participation as part of that development, and continues to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Myth: Failure will be harmful to the psychology of the young child.

The Reality: Neither winning nor losing is harmful when success/failures are placed in the perspective of improvement, personal success, and skill development. Learning to cope with failure is as important as learning to cope with success. If people are not exposed to the possibility of failure, they are unlikely to learn how to deal with it.

The Reality: Challenges that are realistic and within the range of physical/mental development encourage learning about skill, fun, as well as success and failure.

Myth: Competitive sports are too stressful for  young children.

The Reality: Children often welcome the challenge of competition, seeing it as an opportunity for learning and practicing newly found skills. As already stated, if children do not feel an excessive pressure to always win, or to always perform perfectly, the stress experienced in competition can be a positive contribution to healthy development. The desire to win must always be balanced with support for the development process involved in preparing for competition