Dear Mr. Man…

February 26, 2009

Fatherhood Friday: Winners and Losers

Filed under: Fatherhood Fridays — P. J. Easter @ 10:36 pm


Sports Equipment on White

Q: Dear Mr. Man.

My kid plays in a sports league that doesn’t keep score. How do I teach him about winners and losers?   fatherhood-friday

A: My son, JC, plays in a church basketball league (which I have coached for the last three years). The league is an outreach to our local community to expose kids and parents to our faith who may not otherwise come to know the Lord. As a coach in this league, the goal is to love on the kids with the love of Christ and, if we could squeeze in the fundamentals of basketball, then that was the bonus. This year, I was unable to coach due to an ankle injury (previously mentioned in another post in this blog). So Adi, Bae, and I sat on the sidelines and cheered for my son and his team every Saturday morning.

We would really get into the action. We would yell and holler from the sidelines with every great pass and spectacular shot. We would watch the kids run up and down the court while occasionally having to stop to tie their shoestrings.

Every parent in the stands knew that there was no official score, but that did not keep parents and coaches from keeping their own tallies.

After each game, JC would look at me with a certain pride in his eyes and say, “We won, Daddy. Didn’t we?” Although I had it in my mind who won the game, I wanted to support the goal of the league, because the lessons are invaluable:

JC: “We won, Daddy. Didn’t we?”

Me: “Everyone was a winner today, son.”

JC: “How can that be, Dad, when we got more baskets than ’em?”

Me: “Because everyone is a winner in God’s eyes, JC.”

I talk to him regularly about good sportsmanship. I talk to him about allowing an opponent to lose with his dignity intact because , if he loses, he would want the same. I let him know that I believe that how the contest is fought is more important than who wins or loses the game. I tell him to be proud of his effort and to accept criticism for what its worth.  Although these are difficult lessons for him to understand, I pray that one day my words will be remembered as well as the lessons I try to impart.

I understand that if I don’t teach him the right way to man up, he never will.

Mr. Man



  1. Oh man, I never win any popularity contests for my point of view here but…

    I disagree. Heartily.

    Look, when kids are this young I realize learning the game and having fun are the most important things. That goes without saying. But there is nothing wrong with keeping score. And sending the message that everyone ties and there are no winners and losers is not a good thing. A little competition is a positive thing, not something negative. The kids aren’t stupid, they know who wins and who loses because they’re keeping score. You still stress sportsmanship and playing the game the right way, but you also teach them one team wins and one team loses, even though everyone tries hard.

    I just feel like we’re promoting mediocrity instead of celebrating excellence when we treat kids like this. Just my two cents.

    Comment by Daddy Files — February 27, 2009 @ 5:56 am | Reply

  2. @Daddy Files. We agree on the basics. You’re on point about the fact that the kids know who won or lost a game. I just don’t believe that the score is the most important part of competitve play. Our children’s success should not be measured by a scoreboard. I think the true life lessons are the ones learned from the elements of competitive play. It sounds like you teach your son the same lessons as I do from that standpoint. These are the lessons that will make our kids winners in life.

    Mr. Man

    Comment by Mr. Man — February 27, 2009 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  3. I agree that sportsmanship is just as important as the fundamentals of any sport. Yeah there are winners and losers but the emphasis should be on how the game is played. Good piece.

    Comment by Joe — February 27, 2009 @ 10:58 am | Reply

  4. I think doing stuff like this hurts our kids in the long run. How are kids ever going to get better, try harder and practice more if they never “lose”. Losing and winning will happen through out life and kids need to learn how to deal with both.

    If you look at the Michael Jordons of the world, they got to where they were because at one point they suffered a set back. They devoted themselves to being better and made it happen. Would we have Jordans and Woods if their parents didn’t show them that if you lose you pick yourself up, dust off and try harder?

    Comment by New-Dad-Blog — February 27, 2009 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  5. i’m agreeing w joeprah. definitely a good post 🙂

    Comment by ciara — February 27, 2009 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  6. “I talk to him regularly about good sportsmanship. I talk to him about allowing an opponent to lose with his dignity intact because , if he loses, he would want the same.”

    Awesome. Simply put.

    When I used to play sports as a kid (back in the old days when they’d keep score), the good sportsmanship trophy was way bigger than the winning team trophy. For good reason.

    Comment by *Isabella* — February 27, 2009 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  7. @New-Dad-Blog. Sure, children need to know what it’s like to win and to lose. Those are important life lessons. Part of winning at life is knowing how to recover from a loss or setback. However, I think those lessons can be taught without a scoreboard. One of the reasons I enjoy sports so much is because the lessons learned on the field (team play, cooperation, leadership, responsibility, preserverence…and I could go on)are more important than the number of points scored.

    Thank you and Daddy Files for the great counterpoints. You make blogging a worthwhile endeavour.

    Mr. Man

    Comment by Mr. Man — February 27, 2009 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  8. @*Isabella*. Our league gives the kids on the team iron-on stars of different colors. Each color represents something like “Best Offense”, “Best Defense”, and so on. As a coach, it meant the most to me to issue the white star. This star is for “Christ-like Behavior”. This would be for the child who worked hard at the game, played the game unselfishly, exemplified teamwork and good sportsmanship. These are the traits that make winners in life.

    Comment by Mr. Man — February 27, 2009 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

  9. I really enjoyed this post. As always, great food for thought. Personally, the schools I attended early on in life never had organized sports programs (I grew up in inner-city NewYork) so I never had these experiences. My issue will be helping my children to thrive in this area and help drive home these critical life lessons when I can’t relate first hand to the experience. Any thoughts?

    Comment by Geno — February 27, 2009 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  10. @Geno. Your life experiences will allow you to draw the analogies between sports and life. It all about watching the game beyond the scoreboard.

    Comment by Mr. Man — February 28, 2009 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  11. It is about watching the game beyond the scoreboard, I couldn’t agree more. I still like to see the kids go at it and try to work over the other team, but the end result is not being arrogant or overzealous. It’s about putting in your best effort and being comfortable with that, win or lose.

    Comment by pete — February 28, 2009 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

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