Search this blog

1378752_10202153599707112_1304304233_nMy son will play in soccer tournaments today. And I want him to win.

I feel like I’m going against the tidal wave of parental niceness to even say such a thing, but it’s true. During this game, I don’t want him to just have fun or play safely. I want his team to win. And I hope every dad cheering from the sidelines for the other team feels the same way.

I believe we should resist the fashionable tendency to take competition out of sports.

That’s why, at the beginning of the soccer season, I asked my son: ”What’s more important? Having fun or winning?

He answered: “Having fun?”

“No,” I replied. “Winning. Because if you’re not winning, you’re not having fun.”

What do they teach children in school these days?

At some point in the past two decades, parents began to worry that they were putting too much pressure on kids. So sporting events became less about the score, and more about the experience. That’s what I was told a few years ago when I asked why there was no official scorekeeping for T-Ball anymore. And then I joined the other fathers on the sidelines who were secretly noting every run.

I can hear the objections already…

It’s not about winning or losing; it’s how you play the game.

Well, yes, let’s give a loud cheer for good sportsmanship. But last I checked, the point of playing the game was to win. To play your heart out and celebrate a victory with your team.

Your kids will feel terrible if they lose.

I certainly hope so! The last thing I want is my kid to feel good about losing. I hope he hates losing and loves winning. Because it’s when you put a strong emphasis on winning the game that you’re best equipped to learn from your losses – to channel the frustration and inner angst of losing into doing better the next time.

You’re going to push your kids too hard and make them fearful later on in life.

No… I’ll tell you what will make someone fearful later in life. It’s when they’re out in the real world and they realize that not everyone wins a trophy. Not everyone does well in life just because they did a respectable job or put forth some effort. I want my kids to learn this lesson now, so that they’re adequately prepared for the world they will live in one day.

But don’t you want every kid to feel like a winner?

No. Because when everyone’s a winner, no one’s a winner. If effort doesn’t matter and the results are always the same, then what’s the point of bettering yourself? If you get smothered with compliments after playing poorly, how will you ever believe the rightful praise that comes your way after you’ve played a stellar game?

Consider me old-fashioned, but I think sports can be a terrific way to build some character in our kids. And character-building happens best when the kids are playing to win.

View Comments


39 thoughts on “Don’t Give Your Kid a Trophy for Losing”

  1. This generation of kids that was given trophies and certificates just for showing up has been entering the workplace over the past decade and some have come to expect recognition in the workplace just for showing up. Some have had their parents go to their boss when they didn’t get that raise or when they got reprimanded. They don’t give the respect that is automatically due to positions of authority, but expect to be able to treat their boss as their equal. What’s the workplace doing about it? Adapting to the Millennials! Even the military is doing it (which may very well explain why there are so many cases of PTSD in Iraq/Afghanistan war vets). For example, there was an age-old Navy tradition whenever a ship and crew crossed the Equator. Those who hadn’t crossed before had to undergo an initiation. Now, because of the Millennials, that tradition has been cast aside and it’s essentially just certificates and a party. Navy uniforms were changed to give lower enlisteds something that was reserved only for senior enlisteds and officers. (Much the way the Army, during the Clinton regime, took the black beret that was once reserved only for a certain elite unit and gave it to everyone).

    While I agree that some of this was spurred by the psycho parents at children’s sporting events – the parents that yell at or threaten coaches, that use abusive language toward other parents’ children during games, etc., the solution should have been to deal with the parents, not to take away the essentials of competition, of winning and losing, of good sportsmanship on the field, of having goals to work toward (e.g. to win the league championship). Now we have a generation of narcissists whose heads were inflated with all that “self-esteem” nonsense. (Self-esteem is pride and pride is sin). The Bible tells us to esteem others, not to esteem ourselves. Esteeming ourselves and loving ourselves are part of our sinful nature.

    I remember about 20 years ago a mother was singing the alphabet song with her daughter. However, the ending to the song was one I hadn’t heard before: “Now I know my ABCs. Tell me what you think of me.” We started instilling this narcissism in these kids from a very young age.

    There are winners and losers in life. That’s the nature of the fallen world we live in. For us as Christians, though, we win by losing – losing our lives, dying to ourselves, denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Him.

  2. Christiane says:

    There are different kinds of ‘winning’. Here is one to think about:
    At a Special Olympics race, a Down Syndrome boy was running and doing well with a chance to win. Then the boy next to him fell down. Without hesitating, the Down Syndrome-challenged child went and helped the fallen child up and together, they finished the race. They didn’t come in ‘first’.

    It’s like our military. A fire-fight with wounded and dead. Our soldiers will go back into harm’s way to pick up their fallen wounded, and to retrieve the bodies of their dead brothers. They will leave no one behind. And yes, some will lose their lives attempting this, but they attempt it anyway.

    On the other hand, we have for our young people the example of professional sports, with the use of performance-enhancing drugs taken by desperate people who ‘must’ win at all costs. And the bullies who purposefully injure other players. And the millions of dollars paid to these ‘heroes’.

    Being consistently honorable is the only kind of winning.
    Why? Because anything less and you cheat your own soul.

    1. Amber says:

      That was beautifully said. Thank you.

  3. Timothy F Reynolds says:

    Brother, I disagree! I think you are over-reacting to the excesses of the “winning isn’t what it’s about” brigade that wants to take competition out of kids’ sport. I don’t agree with them. Of course it wouldn’t be fun without competing to win. But you can still have fun in competing to win, doing your best and being beaten by the better team. I’m very sorry if your son doesn’t find that he can lose and still have fun. Winning isn’t everything – really. It’s part of the fun, not all of it. I think you need to distinguish between having fun playing to win and having to win to have fun. They’re not the same thing. For one thing, since you mostly don’t know whether you’ve won until the end, how can you have fun playing and not knowing whether you’ll win? Only if the fun is really in playing to win, not in winning itself.
    Can we go anywhere in Scripture for help with this? In the Christian life everyone who competes so as to win does win the prize – so Paul’s analogy, if we can reverse it (dubious hermeneutics?) would suggest that the important thing is competing so as to win, not actually coming first. Perhaps a better place to go would be to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. How does that apply to competitive sport? I think it must mean that we can enjoy someone else winning, if its done fairly and squarely, as much as we enjoy winning ourselves. Hard but shouldn’t that be the aim. If you can’t have fun without winning then you’re always playing to take away other people’s enjoyment of the game. That can’t be loving your neighbour as yourself.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      OK, I do admit to engaging in a bit of hyperbole to make the point… I’ll admit to that. ;) And I agree with you that the fun is in playing to win – not just winning. But I stand by my overarching point – that winning matters, and it affects how we play the game.

      When it comes to loving your neighbor as yourself, I think the only way I can be happy for the team that wins is if I too am playing to win, to the point that I respect the effort and victory of a team that played superior to me. If winning and losing isn’t what matters, then I’m LESS inclined to be happy for the winning team, not MORE happy. Does that make sense? Good sportsmanship does not require us to be okay with losing. It requires us to congratulate the winning team for doing just that – winning.

      I don’t think you and I are very far apart on this actually.

      1. Yeah, Trevin, but it was only a bit of hyperbole. It wasn’t very far off the mark. Being good sportsmen on the field is just as important as winning the game and you can still have fun even if you don’t win.

        About a month ago, Karaganda Shakter (a team here in Kazakhstan) played against Celtic (playing what the world outside the US and Canada calls “football” aka soccer) first here in Kazakhstan’s capital (where it beat Celtic 2-0) then on Celtic’s home turf in Scotland (where it lost 3-0). It meant a lot to people here in Kazakhstan for one of its teams to be able to play against such a major fixture in European football. We celebrated the win and were disappointed in the loss (even if a few Shakter fans did get a bit out of control after the game in Scotland: There are winners and there are losers. It’s part of life in a fallen world.

        1. For the record, the people involved were Europeans, not Kazakhs.

      2. Eric C says:

        Tim and Trevin, I agree with the constructive exchange you had.

        I’m glad that the hyperbole about winning was acknowledged.

        I agree that athletes — and especially youth athletes — should be coached to play to win. However, I believe that there is a higher goal (that actually encompasses playing to win) in sports that Christian athletes should strive for, which is: excellence.

        As an athlete and coach myself, I’ve come to understand that winning can be a very fickle thing that can be determined by seemingly random factors such as a gust of wind, a botched call by an official, or an equipment failure. Those factors cannot be controlled. What athletes and teams can control, though, is the way one approaches the game, from preparation to execution, from sportsmanship to competitive intensity.

        If excellence is being pursued, then winning is often a natural byproduct — but not the end all be all.

        It’s important to celebrate the development of youth athletes, such as a player going from literally being afraid of the ball in the beginning of the season to overcoming that fear and making sound plays. That applies win OR lose.

        I think we’re on the same page on this one, and I hope your team enjoys an EXCELLENT season — with hopefully a championship! :)

  4. Patrick says:

    Maybe the goal is “winning well.” 1 Cor 9 comes to mind as a good paradigm to follow. Paul doesn’t say “Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have *asserted my free man privilege and subjugated* everyone, in order to win more people.” He constantly talks about meeting the needs of others, but the end result is to win.

    1. This blog needs a LIKE button!

  5. Scott says:

    Mike Matheny Little League World Series Piece From ESPN

  6. Rebecca Aguilar says:

    The trophies my children received playing little league sports (that every other child received regardless of winning or losing) meant nothing to them or to me. The trophies gathered dust on the shelf, fell off, got decapitated or otherwise mangled and eventually ended up in the trash! Everyone being a winner was rather meaningless.

    On the other hand, I don’t go quite as far as you do regarding only winning being any fun. Yes, I want my children to win if possible but more important to me is that they do their very best and give their all. If they tried their hardest and don’t happen to win the game, I’m still extremely proud of them. To me true joy is in doing your best with passion!

  7. It seems to me that the point of raising children is to prepare them for life “out there”. Prepare them to live in this world. And in this world, you don’t get a trophy for showing up.

    It has been said, and I believe it, that the fear of failure (you could also say “losing”) is what drives us to excellence. When society succeeds in removing that possibility, of failing, it will find we have lost our desire for excellence.

    Look around and tell me that’s not happening right now….

  8. Timothy F Reynolds says:

    I think we need to be careful to separate the baby from the bathwater here! To teach kids that the real world is all about winners and losers is to fail to teach them about the grace of God.

    The trophies the world gives are baubles at best, anyway, aren’t they?

    Is our only reason for encouraging our children to take part in sport to “prepare them for the real world”? More than just preparing our children for the real world, we need to prepare them for heaven. How does our attitude to competitive sports help with that aim, I wonder?

    1. I disagree, Timothy. Teaching kids that the “real world,” the fallen world is, in effect, all about winners and losers can be used to highlight the grace of God by showing the two things as being very different. In the fallen world, “winning” is something that is earned through the effort of playing the game well (or by cheating, but that’s another matter). In God’s kingdom, we win because of Christ’s victory and we can’t do anything to earn it, deserve it, have it owed to us, etc., which is why it is by grace alone. God did a similar contrast by giving the Law (God’s perfect standard) to show how sinful we are.

  9. T. Webb says:

    IMO, in the early years, the first few grades, the emphasis is on having fun and learning the fundamentals. Have you seen kindergarten soccer teams play? They’re just one big crowd around the ball usually. At some point, maybe second or third grade, the emphasis can change to having fun by playing your part on the team correctly (executing the fundamentals), and having everyone work together well enough to beat the other team. I don’t have a problem giving everyone an award / trophy / prize early on for the season, since just playing the whole thing through is an accomplishment. But that’s just my opinion.

  10. George L says:

    Totally agree with you Trevin. You articulated this point well. In today’s society,even among believers, this is a brave post.

    I would venture to say anti-winning is a rather new idea. In 1 Cor 9, Paul doesn’t have to explain the inherent point of winning in order to make his analogy. It’s assumed that the point of running is to win! That being said, it’s how we respond in both winning and losing that are our test of character.

    Also, if you want to talk about “grace” in sports, it doesn’t even make sense if there are no winners. The point of grace is that we get something that we don’t deserve. We ought to get something bad, but instead we get something good. In Christiane’s post for example, we can be moved to tears when the fellow competitor helps the other finish the race, because we understand that NORMALLY, the point is to win the race. But instead, the winning athelete shows grace to the one who is losing. The runner who falls “ought to” lose, but instead is shown grace. If there isn’t an underlying assumption that the point is to win, then the example loses it’s power.

  11. JohnM says:

    “Consider me old-fashioned, but I think sports can be a terrific way to build some character in our kids.” Okay, you’re old fashioned. :) The thing is, sports are way overrated as character builders, and way overrated generally. And I’m a sports fan. If parents want their kids to be “winners” and aren’t unduly concerned about life being all fun all the time, how about leaning harder on grades and career preparation? That would build as much character and far better serve the 99 plus percent of youngsters for whom sports will always be just a game they played as kids.

  12. Rodney says:

    Great article. Trevin, I completely understand what you are trying to say. As an American, (and Christian) when i watch the Olympics I’m cheering for USA, AND if possible I want them to WIN as many GOLD metals as possible. Does it mean my perspective is not in order as a believer? No. We give so many bad examples. We know that there are parents out there that are obsessed with winning and will abuse their child and others if they lose. BUT I also have seen parents, including myself that always encourage my boys to do your best, practice hard, study hard, work hard. Your result may not always be winning, but I guarantee that MOST of what you’re going to do will come out on top.

  13. Jeremiah Henson says:

    I always thought 1 Corinthians 9:24 was an analogy to spur Christians on to win their heavenly crowns? Paul wasn’t giving us recreational advice… We just have to be careful not to idolize sports or idolize winning. What is your attitude and character like before, during and after the game (win or lose)?

  14. Christiane says:

    perhaps in raising a Christian child, the thought may occur that ‘competition’ is not as important as ‘cooperation’, and that in team sports, a team player may not win personal glory but may contribute his talents to the benefit of the team. The application of this principal of unselfish giving for the benefit of the Body of Christ is evident over the usual ‘competition’ of thousands of Christian denominations with one another for their share of the sheep.

    it’s like ‘debate’ and ‘dialogue’ … the goal of ‘debate’ is to win; the goal of ‘dialogue’ is to increase understanding. In debate, someone loses, in dialogue, it’s a win-win

    What is the core lesson we teach our children in sport?
    If it is anything less than behaving honorably, we are making a terrible mistake.

  15. Chris Stephens says:

    I teach mathematics at a university. Since these child-psychology ideas have also crossed over into academics, I see the results in my mathematics classes. I’ve started telling my students there are two kinds of confidence you can have (in academics, or in sports, or in many other things). I informally call them “authentic confidence” and “fragile confidence.”

    Authentic confidence, paradoxically, comes from having experienced *failure*. More precisely, from having experienced failure and continued to persevere, again and again. I tell my students that the fact that I have a Ph.D. in math essentially means that I’ve made tens of thousands more mathematical mistakes than they have!

    A world-class violinist has made hours upon hours of mistakes, and persevered until the sounds came out right. A world-class athlete has trained for thousands of hours, much of which involved more failure than success. Such failures (and ensuing perseverance) breed confidence.

    On the other hand, there are two kinds of fragile confidence. First, a child steeped in the “everyone is right and everyone gets a medal” culture has fragile confidence. For in that culture, there is no such notion as “failure.” And without failure, how can there be perseverance? And further, without perseverance (I would argue) there can be no authentic confidence.

    The other kind of fragile confidence grows in the child who is taught that there IS winning and losing, and that “winning” (or being “right,” in academics) is the ultimate (only?) goal. The problem becomes that such a child may begin to fear failure–to think of himself as a lower-quality person if he misses the shot, or gets an 87 on a math test. As long as he succeeds, he is “confident”; but it’s a fragile confidence, built on human perfection (which is bound to collapse).

    Better is to keep score (so we can define success and failure with respect to whatever “game” we’re playing), and then teach our kids that perseverance through defeat/failure is the ultimate goal.

    1. Timothy F Reynolds says:

      A helpful analysis, Chris – thank you. Winston Churchill comes to mind: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

  16. Simon says:

    You can trust a Calvinist to say that winning is the most important thing. Winning at all costs? Winning in fairness? How about just doing your best and being content with that win or lose? Are you going to punish your kid for not winning then? What a joke of a post. Sometimes these ultra Calvinists take being “counter-cultural” to ridiculous places. Go homeschool your kid and teach him that winning is everything… good luck to ya

    1. Simon,

      Your obvious hostility toward Calvinists is uncalled for.

      We know that salvation is by grace alone and is entirely monergistic. However, what about the sanctification process afterward? (Granted, even that is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in us). What about those crowns Paul mentioned, the ones that would be given in heaven? They’re not given just for being saved (for just showing up). Should we be content with just being saved and then doing nothing for the kingdom? Should we not strive to “win the prize” (see 1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB), whatever that prize is going to be? (Even if for no other reason than to be able to lay that prize at Jesus’ feet). Should we not strive to be “good and faithful” servants (see Matthew 25:21 and 25:23) instead of just biding our time until God takes us home? Should we not look forward to being able to truthfully say to Him “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10)?

      If everyone gets a trophy or a certificate just for showing up, if no one is recognized for his or her greater achievement, then why bother? Why should the athlete do all that training and put forth his best effort if he only gets the same trophy as everyone else? Why strive for excellence if excellence isn’t rewarded?

      Likewise, if an employer is just going to give everyone a bonus or trophy or certificate or whatever, and not give any special recognition to the employees who do the best work or who are the most faithful in performing their duties, why should those employees bother?

      1. JohnM says:

        Because best effort and faithfulness in performing duties is the right thing to do. Because it isn’t man’s approval we should crave anyway. Because we remember we come from a long line of the faithful who were losers in the eyes of the world. Because sometimes when you “win” you don’t win anything really – like in kids sports.

        Yes, I do agree we overdo it with the trophies and ribbons. I’ll agree with you there. Perhaps sometimes nobody should get trophies. Perhaps sometimes even those who win didn’t really accomplish anything of note – like in children’s games.

        1. Being “the right thing to do” isn’t enough. We should put forth our best effort and be faithful in what we’ve been given because God commands it and because it pleases and glorifies Him. It’s all about Him.

          1. Simon says:

            Who said I wanted to give trophies to everyone? I certainly didn’t.

            You may be able to draw parallels between competitive sport and life as St Paul did. But let’s be serious, sports, even competitive sports, are there for our enjoyment and recreation. Lets not turn them into a morality play.

            As for Calvinists, particularly Reformed Baptists, needless to say that they stand outside any definition of Christian orthodoxy, even by the standards of Calvin himself.

  17. Craig Stimpert says:

    The past couple of days I’ve really been struggling with some of the things you’ve mentioned in your article. The timing of it, for me personally, is certainly not by accident. I do get what you’re saying. I even agree with a lot of it. But, there is so much in this blog post that is unqualified that I think you’ve got enough fodder to get you through at least the next two years of writing as you clarify yourself.

    Here are a few of things that need clarification. What is winning? What is losing? What is success? What is failure? And, most importantly, at what point in our lives do we allow ourselves in a sports minded culture to enjoy the Christian virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control?

    As a father of two small children I’m constantly reminded that everyday I disciple my children by the way I discipline them, the way I help them work through defeat, failure, disappointment and even moments of success. There’s never a moment in parenting when we’re off the clock. How I get through these experiences with them will either help them or hinder them in how they view and approach their heavenly Father later on in life. It’s a humbling experience and I know all too well that my words can either hurt or heal. What message am I sending, not only to my children, but to others around me? As I see it, there’s no better place to learn these lessons than in the field of sport competition. I can think of a couple personal examples that perhaps are helpful in this discussion.

    A couple of years ago my son entered his first Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. He wanted a car designed to look like a stack of Lego’s. We succeeded with the design, but it sure wasn’t much for speed. On race day my son’s car was dead last on every run in a field of four. On the first run my heart sank at his last place finish, until I got to the end of the race track where my son was jumping up and down with joy saying, “Dad, dad, I got fourth place!” What’s a dad supposed to say to that? I stepped back and marveled that day at the resilience, joy and innocence of a six year old. What a humbling experience for an overly competitive dad.

    Two years ago we started my son on a swim team. He struggled hard to learn proper stroke technique. There were times when I didn’t think he was getting it, and sometimes I still wonder. Many times I see others join the team who seem to be natural born swimmers and pick up things much easier than my son with less effort. At times it doesn’t seem fair. Then, I look at my son and think of all the hard work he’s put into it. I’m so very proud of him and it has nothing to do with speed or his performance in the pool. I tell my son I love him, period. I also ask him why daddy loves him and I’ve conditioned his response, “because I’m your son.”

    I told my wife two years ago that if we could get our son through swim team by him learning how to manage his swim bag, goggles, water bottle and not loosing his swimsuit, it would be a successful year. Even though I was trying to be funny, there’s a lot of truth to it.

    Then there’s my own experience in the field of sport competition. I’ve been fortunate enough to complete two Ironman Triathlon’s in my life. Both times I knew before I even signed up for the race that I was not going to win. In fact, I wouldn’t even come close. Winning for me was defined in terms of finishing. Outside the winners circle of Ironman Triathlon is a group of people I’m proud to associate with. They’re people who’ve overcome considerable odds to be in the race. You’ll see them finishing near the final hours of the race, each overcoming their own set of circumstances. Quitting is not an option. I’ve seen it many times and I get chocked up even writing about it. These are the real winners of the race!

    Last Saturday I completed a 10-mile open water swim race. I knew when I signed up, that I wasn’t going to win, again not even close. I seriously wondered if I could finish, but I did. I was second to last in a field of 74, but what a great day. I gave it my best. Unfortunately, I’ve spent the last couple of days fighting the one negative voice I heard on race day, allowing it to rob me of the joy of finishing. I’m sorry to say that it’s more powerful than I want it to be. I’ve asked myself numerous times this past year whether a man of my meager swimming ability had any business competing in this event. Many people would say no, others wouldn’t even waste their time in training if they couldn’t finish any better than what I did on Saturday. Tuning out those voices can be harder than the actual event itself. It’s then that I realize I have no choice but to enter the race and face down my demons.

    There will always be people faster than us, or better than us. We all can play the game better. We can train harder, practice longer, and even still, I know firsthand that it doesn’t necessarily make me a better athlete. We must not lose sight on the soccer field, the pool, or any other athletic arena of the real task before us, so clearly laid out for us in 1 Timothy 4: 7: “Rather train yourself for godliness.” Here, the Apostle Paul does acknowledge that “bodily training is of some value.” In other words, enroll you kid on a sports team, enter athletic competition yourself, use it to grow in your own spiritual life, but at the end of the day, understand that it’s only temporary. Ultimately only one thing matters, Godliness, which “is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

    As we strive to train ourselves and our children to be godly, that in itself must be qualified. Later in the book of 1 Timothy in chapter six, godliness is defined in terms of contentment. Yes, contentment! Not whether or not my kid won his soccer game or if I broke a certain time standard in a race, but pure and simple, contentment! For the Christian contentment has an object. It’s not in my accomplishments, but in the person and work of God’s son Jesus Christ. As we “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” we are to look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  18. Sam says:

    Isn’t this a “Christian” blog? I half-agree.

    I agree that this it’s ridiculous not to keep score, not to play to win, and receive a trophy for losing.

    However, as far as kids dealing with losing, shouldn’t losing be about learning how to cope with losing in life? All that matters is that you did your best. If everyone is doing their absolute best to win, the best team will win. And kids should be taught that that’s ok, it’s motivation to raise the bar of their best. And kids shouldn’t feel terrible about losing, that should be an opportunity for parents to reflect God’s unconditional love.

    Also, you said “It’s when they’re out in the real world and they realize that not everyone wins a trophy. Not everyone does well in life just because they did a respectable job or put forth some effort. I want my kids to learn this lesson now, so that they’re adequately prepared for the world they will live in one day.” Well, all blessings as far as promotions and things come from God and we receive them in His own time. When you are in the workplace as a Christian it’s more about doing your best regardless of whether you “win” the promotion or not. Because sometimes people do unjust, immoral, or dishonest things to “win” and get ahead in the workplace. If you teach your kids that it’s all about winning, and not about just doing things excellently and waiting for God to bless you, doesn’t that make being dishonest to “win” in the workplace seem like the more important thing to do?

    I think it’s also an awful attitude to not have fun just because you are not winning. When I played ball at my Christian college I was always so put off by the inconsolable guy that crouched on the field with his head down as soon as the last buzzer went off and his team lost. Losing sports should be an opportunity to see that yes, you should always try your best, but really, the loss is just something small that won’t matter the next day in the grand scheme of things the next day. And it can also be a happy motivator to try harder the next time.

    As Christians we are called to do our best, rejoice in victory, as well as rejoice in loss. Yes, keep victory victory and keep loss loss, but learn to rejoice in every season. I think this is what we as Christians should be teaching our kids through playing sports.

    I think the whole encouraging feeling terrible for trying your best thing, and only having a good time winning thing would transfer over later in life to always sulking anytime something bad happened when it really could be a trial God’s brought into their life.

    1. We rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, just as Paul commanded.

  19. Michael Snow says:

    The title evoked a loud “Amen” from me. But to tell a kid that “if you’re not winning, you’re not having fun” runs into the ditch on the other side of the narrow way.

    My kids were in school during the heyday of the self-esteem program. I remember their remarks about an awards presentation. “They don’t mean anything because everyone gets one.”

    In sports or music or whatever the kids’ interest, they should be encouraged to do their best, to excel and grow by discipline and practice, and to enjoy it whether they “win or lose.”

    The pendulum is always swinging. Let’s stay on solid rock.

    1. Sam says:

      I totally agree with Michael Snow. Living out the Christian life is all about BALANCE: i.e. truth and love, justice and mercy, etc.

      In this case, trying your best to have a clean win/being ok and happy for the other team when they win.

    2. Timothy F Reynolds says:

      Now that’s where I’m coming from – a hearty ‘amen’ to this!

  20. Dana Effler says:

    Awesome article, Trevin! The kids will learn one day that they don’t “win” everything. Some can’t bear the shock.

  21. Kyle J says:

    Surprised 1 Cor 9:24 didn’t come into this one. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

    The lesson is a spiritual one as well! Jesus does not give participation trophies: 1 Cor 3:10-15, those who expect rewards and build with straw will suffer loss, but still be saved. But greater rewards to those who build with gold and silver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Search this blog


Trevin Wax photo

Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

Trevin Wax's Books