Three smiling children in ready position to run

Why it Matters Where Children Finish in a Race

Sport is a great way to help children develop.

Whether it be physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, be part of a team, learn to play fair and improve self-esteem.

As with most things, there’s a more complex side to consider. In this instance, it’s helping kids enjoy the benefits of sport and understand how to deal with ‘winning’ and ‘losing’.

As adults, it’s important for us to understand that stakes are very high for children for everything from weekend sport to a simple game of monopoly – the reason why it is so fun or (adversely) emotional for them. Every played a board game with a child who might be losing and ended having a tantrum a result?

Here’s why we shouldn’t deliberately lose games so our children  or give awards to every competitor in a race: 

In any sporting competition, there will always be elation and disappointment. Children need to learn that success is achieved by doing something a little bit better each day and this applies directly to sport for young children – win, lose or draw.

If we are operating in a world where every kid makes the team or gets a trophy regardless of effort or skill, we are setting ourselves up to have a future generation of seriously out of touch and delusional adults. What is the point of playing the game if ‘everyone wins’? Real life doesn’t work that way; you’re in for a rude awakening.

Here’s some tips to encourage children to want to be successful in sport while helping them understand how to be gracious winners and accepting losers:

  1. From about age 4, kids will try to compete over anything – and they understand winning is good so they want to win everything. Parents can model healthy behaviours and get involved as coaches, managers, umpires and volunteers. This emphasises the positives of sport.
  2. Children love to please parents, make them proud and gain approval. Parents can send children a powerful message about what makes them proud. Will it be because the child tried his hardest, or because of the number of goals he scored?
  3. If parents put all the emphasis on winning and then criticise when their favourite team, athlete or child loses, there is a risk that participating in sport stops being fun.

Children and sport – it’s a great mix. Playing sport helps kids build healthy minds, healthy bodies, friendships and life skills. By teaching a child how to be a good sport from early on you help them get the most out of being part of the game and prepare them for the realities to come as they grow older.

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