Are You Sending Your Child the Right Message About Winning?

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Who is in the Circle?

(By Guest contributor Michael McArdle)

So you have a child who plays sports.  What is your role as a parent?

If you ask me it is to keep your child out of the “circle.” The “circle” is what I refer to as the world of competition and ego. The ultimate goal is to teach your child how to remain outside of the “circle” when competing.

Sport is what we do – it is not who we are. Winning or losing should have no impact on who we are as a person. It should merely reflect the result of a particular effort. If your child “wins” today, they are no different from who they were yesterday as a human being. They have simply produced a result of effort. In other words, a balanced child competes outside of the “circle.”

Inside the “circle” is where people bring their ego and pride. It is where we begin to feel good if we win, and bad if we lose. Each of these feelings has detrimental effects on a child’s personality. If a child succeeds frequently at an early age, they forge a belief system that they are “better” than most. Meanwhile, in another town far away, there is another child who believes they are better than most. One day, these two will compete with one another and the result will be a destruction of a belief system for one of them. This, quite often, proves to be devastating because the loss redefines the person and causes them to challenge their self-view.

Rather than accept the fact that someone is better than them, this child will begin to do what every single person who competes in the “circle” does when faced with losing: MAKE EXCUSES.

“I knew I shouldn’t have played today, my back is still sore.” “I would have won if that stupid referee had made better calls!” “This field is in horrible shape! How can anyone expect to play well here?” And of course the very first thing any child who loses learns to say…“It’s no fair!”

We make excuses because we can only be in the “circle” and feel good when we win. If we lose, we immediately try to leave the “circle.” “That wasn’t me in there,” is the way we protect ourselves from the truth – we lost. However, the damage caused by winning when inside the “circle” can be just as bad.

Children who bring their ego into the “circle” can be expected to see their ego grow, which leads to a false pride and arrogance about their self-worth that is predicated solely on sporting performance. No child is a better person because they won an event. Every parent need to keep that in mind when dealing with a talented athlete.

If you want to do what is best for your children, encourage them to see the “circle” as a place where the sport lives – not a place where they live. Success is who we are outside of the “circle.” Whether we win or lose, if we can be the same person we were before we competed, we have achieved far more than a scoreboard can show.

Michael McArdle is a Learning Research Specialist and the former Executive Director of the non-profit Learning Patterns Corporation. He writes, lectures, and conducts workshops on a variety of subjects dealing with the development of the human mind.

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