I'm a loser, I admit it.

I’m a loser. I admit it. I’m a loser and the record speaks for itself.

I was a cross country runner in secondary school. I finished dead last in my first races and couldn’t even run the whole way- I had to walk. Only a few years later was I able to finish in the top half of a race. I never won. In fact, our team had a two and a half season losing streak.

I was a two mile runner on our school’s athletics team. At best I was mediocre, and was soundly beaten in every race I ran. 

I have run many fun runs as an adult. I never won a single race. I never even came close.

I played little league baseball as a kid in the USA. I rarely hit the ball, and most of the time struck out.

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I played basketball in a local recreation league in Melbourne in my 50s. We were routinely and soundly beaten, due in part to the age discrepancy between us and our younger opponents.

I never won a spelling bee, a cooking contest (not that I would ever enter one of those!) nor any other competition. 

I never won a medal, although I do have a nice coffee mug for finishing a marathon back in 1982 (I finished somewhere in the middle, my usual spot), but that’s about it. My ‘pool room’ is bare when it comes to trophies.

And in all these years as a child I never received a certificate, medal or trophy for achievement, participation, improvement or for any other ‘warm fuzzy, feel good’ reason. 

If this doesn’t make me a loser, nothing does!

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Yet despite this abysmal record, I am extremely proud of myself. I gave it my best, I competed, I cheered my teammates. I never won. So what? Very few people can be a winner. Only one runner, player, or team wins- everyone else loses. Simple.

I was happy to improve, to be part of a team and to establish a level of physical fitness which I maintain to this day. My losing didn’t stop me from trying, and I didn’t expect a medal or certificate or trophy unless I truly deserved it, and I didn’t. Had I been given one I would not have felt any pride whatsoever, for I would have known the truth: I lost; someone else won.

That’s ok, though. That’s the real world. Or at least it was…

Today, it seems, children mustn’t lose! No matter what, kids receive a medal or certificate just for showing up. Some sports matches aren’t even scored, so no one wins or loses. Are adults concerned that their kids’ egos are so fragile that they can’t accept that someone else is better, someone else is a winner, and they have to ensure their kids feel good about themselves by receiving some certificate or faux medal?

JH Harrison, an American professional gridiron player had this to say recently on Instagram:

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jhharrison92 I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalue

This may sound harsh to today’s young parents, particularly the ‘helicopter parents’ who hover over their children, trying to ensure they suffer no setbacks in life and are always supported by Mummy and Daddy. But to learn how to achieve, and to value their achievements, children need to experience the reality of losing. They need to experience disappointment if we expect them to have the resilience to get back on their feet and try again. 

If we only persisted at something because we were guaranteed to win, to be the best, most of us would not have persisted at much. 

I hope our grandkids experience losing. Learning how to lose is what ultimately will help make them winners. They may never win a gold medal, but whatever they will achieve in their lives, by their efforts, will be of real value, and not merely for showing up and participating in the game of life.

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Do you agree with Zvi? Should grandkids know how to lose gracefully?

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