Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning to Be a Graceful Winner

A swim team picture from the summer.  

Sunday afternoon, the boys piled into the van.  Their expressions reflected their sour moods.  (Truthfully, mine wasn't much better!) They knew of our afternoon plans and were none too pleased about the destination: Connor's swim meet.  What they've learned about being a spectator at a swim meet is that it's a never-ending experience.  (Connor attempted to give them a pep talk by saying, "Hey guys, it's only five hours!")  

As a seasoned spectator at many a sport, I give kudos to swim team parents and siblings.  In my humble opinion, they are at a level above any other sport parent.  What they endure to watch a loved one swim says volumes about their affection for that child. Swim spectators cram into a finite set of bleachers in sweltering temperatures.  The meets last so long that a parent can literally feel himself or herself age.  

And for those lucky parents that have other children in tow in the stands....well, they should be nominated for sainthood.  I was one such parent this weekend.  To keep my little ones occupied during the meet required enough electronic devices to stock an Apple Store.  In between video games, they became "regulars" at the concession stand.  (Are there ever enough Ring Pops?)  Periodically, we'd gaze out at the pool trying to catch a glimpse of the few nanoseconds that Connor was actually swimming.

When he was in the pool, it was great.  After a few years on the swim team, Connor is finally getting it.  His strokes look more polished and his stamina has improved.  In each race, he shaved seconds off his PR, enough to win first and second place awards in several of his races.  We were thrilled!

After the meet, I pulled Connor into a bear hug and congratulated him on his fine finishes.  He beamed and then recounted a conversation with a swim buddy.  Connor said, "I told my friend, 'I have so many first and second place awards that I don't know if I can hold them all.'"

I smiled and winced at the same time.  I pondered, "Did he really say that?"

I've always known that we needed to teach our children how to lose gracefully.  The sore loser thing is something that's plagued them all (me too at times).  But I had no idea I needed to spend an equal amount of effort teaching them to win.  (Perhaps because our gang has not had enough practice winning!)  I want the boys to savor each win, but I also hope they enjoy success with a substantial amount of grace, humility, and sensitivity toward others.

Puzzled by how to respond, I googled, "How to be a Gracious Winner."  No surprise: WikiHow provided some answers.  In a post entitled, "How to be a Good Winner" the website guides readers through nine easy steps to perfect the art of winning (complete with photo examples).  The advice I found helpful to pass along to the boys includes:

  • Don't boast about it.  Be modest.
  • Tell people who might want to know.
Later, I talked to Connor about winning with sensitivity, using his voice not so much for boasting, but for encouraging others - a good lesson for us both.


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