Life Notes: Learning Life’s Lessons
by Missy Spicer

How many times have we heard these sayings – or even said them ourselves? “If it’s not about winning, why keep score?” – “Win at all costs!” – “Do whatever it takes to win!” – “Losing is not an option.”

After coming to work at Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home six and one-half years ago, I quickly learned the one thing that was going to keep me in my job in the Recreation Department: It’s not about winning or losing – It’s how you play the game. Yes, I had heard that one before, but it wasn’t very consoling to my team or me after a loss. I myself have played sports recreationally, collegially, and I continue to play on traveling summer teams and nobody wants to coach, play for, or sponsor a loser. But with this overwhelming emphasis put on coaches and players to win – in order to succeed or move up – the traditional concepts of teamwork and sportsmanship can get lost or forgotten.

Most of the youth that come to our facility have never played on a sports team, so they haven’t been exposed to fundamentals, skills, or even rules of team sports. But, the one thing we all know is winning because competitiveness “lives and breathes” in all of us. This competitive nature, however, has been incorporated in many of our kids’ lives as a survival technique, not as a fun activity.

This is why (when youth are playing games or activities in the Recreation Department) we play to a tie, no winner or loser. We reward EVERYONE for just participating. Hard fouls, trash talking, and disrespect of others is punishable by our behavioral system. Wow, could you imagine the NBA, MLB, or NFL players being penalized for such things? How about the youth who began flipping everyone off while playing flag football because he saw Kyle Turley do it in the Saints game that Sunday? We have youth that kick their glove, yell at the ball or the one that hit it, and then quit. We find out later that their parents and peers used to make fun of them when they tried to play and made mistakes. It takes some time for our youth to understand that we are here to teach, support, and encourage them – Not ridicule, yell, or belittle them for attempting something regardless of the outcome. Competition, teamwork, sportsmanship, and putting forth an effort are not skills one uses just in sports – they are also skills one uses in life.

We as Recreation staff – adults, coaches and mentors – need to use patience, consistency, humor, persistence, dedication, and encouragement simply to get our youth to participate. So we focus on the effort, modifying it as we go to get the outcome necessary for the situation. What do I mean? Everyone likes the self-gratification of winning but that means someone has to lose. So, concentrate on the effort of all and reward what you MUST to get what is BEST for ALL in the end. Remember, success is a journey, not a destination. We teach our youth that talent is a blessing, dedication is a choice, and performance is learned.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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