While we want to recognize the importance of effort and the process of striving for excellence, in the end not all outcomes or achievements are equal or deserve a trophy. In the same way that grades in school have been artificially inflated, we have done the same thing in the culture of sports, however to the determent of the youth.
"There's no winner, both teams won" is the secret or lie that we have to been telling the youth after a soccer match, basketball game or any sporting event. This lie is teaching kids that participating and giving any effort is all equal to those with different skill sets and work ethic. Going through the motions and participating sometimes isn't enough and shouldn't receive a reward. Don't get me wrong, everyone has the same value and worth as a person, but the results and outcomes of an individual's performance are not universally equal.
There are various reasons as to why I do not believe parents should tell their kids that everyone is a winner. First, winning is about performance and not every performance is equal. For example, my attempts and efforts to play soccer aren't equal to Mia Hamm. Comparing is good because it lets us know how and where to improve. Second, it's setting up a false view or misconception of what the real world is like. If everyone was told that they were a winner in the workplace, then mission, goals, and budgets wouldn't matter because we all want to feel good, "you're a winner sweetie." That mindset is only setting up the next generations for devastation when they find out that's not how the world works. Lastly, this philosophy undermines effort and skill. For example, when I was younger, I practiced hard and led my team in goals which differentiated myself from other players. My hard work and skill paid off which made winning fun. However, I knew what it was like to lose in sports and that feeling wasn't fun, but it made me try even harder next time. The lie that was being told by the parents on my team was that their children's participation was good enough and that there is no loser because everyone is a winner. That lesson doesn't teach them the value of losing. How is that child going to learn to get up off their ass after they have fallen and try again? But then again, they are a "winner," so they never fell in the first place, right?
So why do parents feel like they need to lie? Perhaps they want their child to feel good at the moment, but that doesn't set them up to succeed in the future. Or maybe, they can't admit that their child isn't very good nor is willing to put in the work to get good. Or they're doing it for themselves because they were never a true winner growing up. Honesty is tough.
No matter the reason, we need to begin telling the truth to the youth. The truth is that failing is a part of life and sometimes you won't win, but it's how you deal with a loss and come back from it. Without losing there is no such thing as winning.
"Learn how to be a loser, because it's important to be a loser to be a winner" - Sanford I. Weill