“It’s not a competition, but you better win.” That was the last thing my director said to us before VISION, my school’s show choir, took the stage at a local show choir “showcase.” We were all pumped to go out on the stage and strut our stuff. We had a great set, with songs from the 70’s including Boogie Wonderland, Dancing Queen, ABC, and Free Ride. We were full of energy and gave a performance that had the audience cheering. Believe me, we won. But we just got a participation plaque, just like everyone else. It didn’t matter, though. We knew that we had won. We made our director proud, and we made ourselves proud.
But what if we hadn’t? What if we had done terrible? What then? We would have still gotten the same plaque. We would have cheated ourselves into thinking we did great, that we’d somehow earned some sort of standing. It would reflect on our practice, instead of thinking we were good but pushing ourselves to be even better, we would have been convinced that we were good enough, and practiced mediocracy. If we knew that however we did, we would have something handed to us without indicating that we were above or below any standards, there would be no motivation to work harder. This is the danger of coddling.
Coddling is “To treat in an indulgent or overprotective way.” This is mostly seen in sports. The idea that “Everybody’s a winner,” is prevalent in today’s society. No one loses, because losing may hurt their feelings. Competition is a scary concept. Even when there has to be a clean cut first, second, and third, everyone still walks away with a ribbon. The team that loses gets the same reward as the team that wins.
The main reason this is dangerous is because it teaches kids that they will win in life. That life is fair. News flash, they won’t. And it’s not. No matter how much parents want to protect their kids, sometimes we have to learn the hard way that we can’t get everything that we want. That no matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be someone better. That no matter how hard you work, life’s not fair. You’re not going to get everything that you want.
The second danger is that once a kid knows that whatever they do they’ll get a reward, motivation to work hard is eliminated. Why go the extra mile when it doesn’t mean a thing? When you get the same medal if you win or lose, why go for the extra goal? That’s just too much effort and you might get hurt. Besides, grandma always gets you ice cream, win or lose. So what’s the point?
The best way to prevent this? Don’t be afraid to lose. Yes, you may be a “loser.” It doesn’t feel good to lose. But one thing that many people are missing is the ability to lose with grace. It does take practice, after all. But you will lose in your life. Better to know how to face it. Don’t be afraid of competition. Let it drive you. Let it motivate you. Then, you will know not only how to lose with grace, but also how great it feels to win.