Playing for fun isn’t fun …unless you win

As I was driving my children to the sporting goods store for yet more baseball equipment, my 8 year old daughter and 10 year old son were having a conversation about his season’s first baseball game. He’s gloating about the fact that his team slaughtered the other team. I, while beaming and proud of their win, am obligated to say something parental that will instill a sense of humility in his budding ego. I don’t want to squash his spirit, but I want to temper what could become an egomaniacal ass in the future. After all, they say, it all starts in moments like these.  So I say, “I am glad you won, but you know, you could lose the next game.” Then my daughter chimes in, “Right, it’s not about winning; it’s about having fun.”

Actually, personally I disagree. It is about winning and how you define winning is what it’s about. I have to respond and I pull out the parent voice and say, “She is right you should be having fun.” Oh the pressure I feel to tame and shape an ego without encouraging the dreaded “everyone’s special” and “you are all winners” rhetoric.

Then my son astutely says, “Playing for fun isn’t fun. The fun part is winning otherwise why practice?”  I smile. That is my spirit. I am competitive. I am an athlete and I sweat and bust my ass in the gym and running not just because winning is fun but because losing sucks. It is not just losing on a scoreboard that sucks but losing because I didn’t try hard enough or I gave in. The worst kind of loss, for me is being unprepared. When game time comes, either on the field, at the track or in life, preparation is the key to winning. Knowing that I could have done something to improve my game and my outcome and for whatever reason made a choice not to – that sucks.

My kids are young and I want them to be good at sports. I think kids who participate in sports and have attained a level of proficiency have a competitive advantage in life because they have learned basic life skills early on that become ingrained into their being. These are skills that are transferable to relationships and jobs. Skills like knowing the rules, knowing who the leader is, how to lead as well as follow. Lots of smart people have done lots of studies to prove this concept so I am not saying anything radical but there are others out there who try and dispel the theory. My personal experience is that organized, competitive sports have helped prepare me for life in a positive way. Therefore, I want my kids to have the same experience. Science and social studies aside, I’ll liken it to a family tradition.

Statistically it is improbable that my son will win every game, so part of practicing is learning how to lose with grace and not give up. Wins and losses come big and small. Over a lifetime my child athletes will be celebrating small wins, and letting little losses be instructional. Wining big and losing big then should feel familiar to the little wins and losses; this is one important lesson that competing has taught me.

I begin to think about the major loss I have suffered. My marriage and all the dreams I had; the business GH and I started; my definition of family; the connections I had to Mapdot, USA and my entire vision of my future has been lost. All of it is gone. Lost in a single realization and discovery. Before now, I have never suffered such a catastrophic loss in my life. Now I am fighting to reclaim my life and redefine my future. Competing and the little losses I suffered along the way could in no way prepare me for becoming collateral damage in a war brought on by GH’s deception. But I will not roll over and give up. No way. Losing sucks. For this competition, though, there will be no clear winner.

Last night I made my way to the baseball field to watch my son’s second game of the season. His confidence is infectious; the whole team is pumped from the last win and that emotional energy carries them to the start of the game. They had a solid practice since their last win and are confident in their skill. They are competing as winners.

I make my way to the stands. From my vantage point I see GH and his posse; nearly every child on the team belongs to parents that grew up with GH. Since our separation, only a few people know why we are divorcing. But regardless of the reason and the fact that he erred in our relationship is irrelevant. He has the home field advantage. I am seen as the opposition and the enemy because I have launched a fight for custody and the right to relocate and get my life back to where I want it. I am a team of one.

I take a cue from the team who started the game with a 1-0 record and act like I belong and that I have already won. I am physically strong. I am emotionally strong and I am confident that I have done nothing wrong. I am prepared and have documented a laundry list of facts and a few silver bullets that I may have to use to to win. I have my game face on. While I have no fan base to cheer me on here, I fall back on the lessons I learned while competing. I suck in my breath, hold my head high and visualize my win.

I cheer on my son and his team and watch them progress the score each inning. The team wins and are now 2-0. They are really having fun.


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