Winners are sometimes losers

Sure, you came last, but guess what? You still get a ribbon darling! And yes, you can’t sing, but hey, you get to be in the choir anyway. And who cares if you’ve got two left feet, of course you can dance … as long as you think you can. We’ll even put you in the front row so you feel better.

You’re a star!

It’s the golden age of “everyone’s a winner”, when everybody gets a prize just for turning up. Isn’t life grand! Well, maybe at the moment, but what about later? What happens when these overly adored munchkins are told NO! for the first time in their lives. When they realise that sometimes they won’t get a prize, because they totally suck at things and there are others better than them. How will they know how to lose and cop it on the chin

Remember Pass The Parcel? That game we played at children’s parties when every time the music stopped a layer was unwrapped. We held our breath to see if it was the last layer, because we knew that was where the prize was hidden. Not so these days. Oh no, we can’t have anyone missing out, so each layer reveals a prize with the layers matched to the number of children participating. No tears, no tantrums, everyone is happy. Phew!

Melbourne psychologist Professor Helen McGrath said last week that all this excessive focus on self esteem has given children overinflated ideas of themselves. She believes our constant reassurance to our children that everything they do is wonderful, and protecting them from negative situations which may upset them, may give them high self esteem, but it doesn’t teach them self worth.

Her observations come to mind as I read about the increasing number of appeals being made by Australian athletes dumped from Olympic selection. Triathlete Emma Snowsill is an example. The Beijing-gold Olympian and three-time world champion has been the most dominant female triathlete of the past decade. That is until Emma Jackson flew up the ranks. Jackson, 20, has beaten Snowsill, 30, in four out of the five events they’ve raced. In a selection process the athletes described as brutal, the selectors were left agonising over their decision to bump the popular Snowsill.

But that’s sport. Indeed, that’s life. Not everyone can win. But instead of copping it sweet, Snowsill is challenging the decision. She said it was “a matter of importance that I take all avenues available to me to achieve my dream of competing at a second Olympic Games.” Oh, so it’s not about who’s the better athlete, it’s about Snowsill achieving her dream. (Think screaming toddler whose dream of getting the prize was shattered in Pass The Parcel.)

Clearly I don’t know what it’s like to aspire to be in the Olympics, my disappointments in life probably pale in comparison. But Snowsill, no matter how good she has been, nor how promising she may be again, has been knocked out by someone faster. It’s as simple as that.

After all, you are only as good as your last race and it appears Ms Snowsill’s race wasn’t good enough.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s important we learn to do both with dignity.


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1 Response to Winners are sometimes losers

  1. Well said, Wendy. Isolating kids from reality and life does them no favours. Past achievements can not be an “access all areas” for the present, let alone the future.

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