At a cricket match this week, I happened to be one of the mom’s sitting on the side of the field watching their sons. It was interesting to hear the mom’s comments on the importance of winning, as opposed to just giving every player a turn to bat and bowl, so that they all can have fun. Both moms had some valid questions and comments that certainly made me think, and hence refine my paradigm on what is the healthiest competitive attitude to instil in our children.

One of the moms asked a very valid question. She asked,“If we allow every player to get a turn so they all can have fun, will they be able to switch on their competitive button in later years when the pressure is on and there is much more at stake for a team?”

Another mom felt that competitive hunger to win is inborn, they either have it or they don’t.  This particular mom has five children ranging from 2 to 17 years. She compared two of her children who were of a similar age to the players who were playing. She said that her son who was playing the match at that moment is so happy just to play; he has no thoughts of the winning or losing. The other child however, wakes up at 5am to bowl in the garage on his own accord.

For me, as parents it’s important to make children aware of the importance and to encourage both of the attitudes that came naturally to each brother spoken about above:

  1. The first is an attitude of having fun in your sport as well as having as attitude of good sportsmanship. This is the mind-set, where your child needs to understand that there is a time as a young child to learn from just experiencing the game, and hence all kids need to have turns to play in all aspects of the game. It is also within this frame that children need to understand the importance of being a polite looser and having the courtesy to congratulate the best team if you lose, in the face of huge disappointment.

With the above you are teaching your child the life lesson of how valuable the experience is on the journey, regardless of the result. It also teaches the importance of finding ways to enjoy the journey, no matter how tough it may be.  If this attitude of enjoying the experience of the moment or journey is not instilled, then to this one’s potential in the moment can be crushed by the pressure of the future result, and there is double failure; a failure to have a full experience and a failure in the result.

  1. The second attitude is giving of your best and aiming for your best result from an early age. Have you ever had to study for exams before a long December holiday? But for these exams you put in so little effort to your studying that you only just pass the exam. When the holiday finally arrives you feel so empty and then you struggle to enjoy the holiday because you kept wishing that you gave of your best for the exam! I have felt this way, and this is how kids feel if they don’t give of their best when they can. I am not talking about trying too hard here and over-training. I am just talking about making it a habit of giving whatever you doing your best shot without excessive emphasis on the wining or loosing. Opposite to the exam example, if you feel you are focused on fulfilling your potential in the moments then the journey is mostly fulfilling no matter what the result.

With the above, you teach your child to make it a habit of digging into their worthiness and resources. Each time they give of their best they are using their potential and gaining confidence as a valuable member of their team, class, and eventually society. When you remind your child that the more fun you can have and the more you enjoy the training, the studying, the experience of sport and life, the more easily they will become fulfilled and worthy adults.

By Toni Gaddie

Clinical and Sports Psychologist