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October 26, 2009

Participation v Winning.

WinnerThese days people place a lot of emphasis on participation. In schools our children are asked to participate and are rewarded for joining in with the sport or activity. Often they receive certificates or rewards for merely participating.

What has happened to winning and striving to excel? What has happened to fostering the burning need to win?

When I was at school they taught us to join in, but winning—that was where the real reward was as far as we were concerned. Every Monday morning the captain of each sports team had to stand up in assembly and tell the rest of the students how the team had performed during the weekend. That was a really good incentive to try hard and win because none of us wanted to report a loss.

I hate losing. Coming last or toward the bottom makes me want to try harder and do better next time. It doesn’t make me give up. Winning and losing teaches me skills to take forward into life, inspires me to achieve the best possible result. Winning or doing well makes me strive to maintain that level of excellence. Winning means something. I remember coming first and feeling a sense of pride and achievement but how many times do you remember participating? Years down the track I remember the successes more than anything else.

I don’t agree with the political correctness that says we should reward people for participating. I’ve lost before and have been disappointed at my losses, but it hasn’t wounded me so much that I’m frightened to try again. I think it’s important to foster a society where we recognize winning. Competition is good because it teaches us to reach for the stars, it gives us a challenge and rewards for those who perform best.

What do you think? Is participation better than winning or losing? Should someone always win?


  1. Debra Kayn

    You’ve hit a subject that I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve got four kids. They are teens now, but when they were younger they got every imaginable award possible. “Student of the week, excellence in achievement, soccer participate, bball accomplishment, ect.” Basically everyone on the team or in the class got their turn to receive these awards and it began to not mean a thing. The kids figured it out early on.

    We do a big disservice to our kids not to teach them how to win with grace and lose with acceptance. Life is full of ups and downs, they need to learn that they are not always going to win and it makes a stronger person to stand up and try again.

    Excellent post!

  2. Amy M

    I think that kids need to learn to win and loose. I am always telling my boys that the best winners are the ones who have learned how to loose. They play sports, and when they were younger everything was a tie. No one won, so no one had hurt feelings. This does not teach them anything. There is nothing wrong with loosing. I feel that it makes you a better person. You will try harder the next time, practice harder and give you somewhere to go.

  3. Julia Smith

    Obviously, the big social experiment of attempting to raise everyone’s self-esteem by having everyone feel like a winner has backfired. As Debra mentioned, kids figure this out and then awards and praise ring hollow. Then in the future, when they really do deserve praise, there is a great potential that we’ll have a generation of people who have massive trust issues. Why believe anything nice if it’s passed out to everyone regardless of performance?

    I believe the even bigger social experiment called communism showed that without something to strive for, you get a population plagued by apathy and cynicism.

  4. Kaye Manro

    To me it’s still the old saying, It’s how you play the game that matters, not the winning. But I do understand how the push to win is these days. And I don’t think it’s a good thing.

  5. Linda Henderson

    Every child should learn how to win graciously and how to lose graciously. I don’t think we teach them that anymore.

  6. Shelley

    I definitely agree that it’s good for us to both win and to lose at times. It’s character-building to do both. I don’t think knowing the outcome – i.e. receiving a reward for participating is quite the same. Why bother trying?

    Julia – yes, kids do figure things out pretty quickly.

  7. Mary

    Whatever happened to one winner and the rest had to deal with losing or coming in second. Yes, it was hard for the kids but we dealt with it and it made us want to try harder and try to win.

  8. Amy W.

    I thinking winning is a great thing and everyone should strive for it. However I personally think not just participating but doing your best and improving is where the focus should be. that’s why I like things like swimming or track, where while you might not be able to win every time you can improve your time every time if you just keep at it. At younger ages 10 and below, I’m all for just emphasizing on participation and teamwork for group sports. But i think once they reach 11 they should know those basics and start striving for the gold and WIN!