The Winning Loser

Last night was Knox County’s Elite track meet covering all of Knox county. Kids must first place in the top 4 in the first, smaller meet to qualify. Over 800 kids attended last night’s meet, including around 20 kids from our little, ole’ school, which is pretty impressive. Surprisingly, Brody was one of those!

Most wouldn’t guess that the boy with a less-than-athletic body and little, white legs would be a sprinter but he is, the 100. Last year, he placed first in the regional meet, which was shocking. So this year, he went into the first meet, a couple of weeks ago with too much confidence.

I wasn’t able to attend but I kept my phone close and had Bo to give me updates and even a video of the race. Going into the first race, my husband said he was cocky, saying he’d beat these kids last year and he felt certain he would again. Much to his surprise, he placed 3rd in the first race. Apparently, he spent the next couple hours waiting for the final race sulking. He sat without hanging out with his friends or talking, as he was just sure he would win. His sweet PE coach even noticed and asked him if he was ok.

After placing 4th in the second race, he was less than enthused and made complaints later that night about why he should have had a faster time in the first race. Basically, he pouted that he placed 4th when I was celebrating. He still had qualified for the finals and he was (is) one of the fastest 4th grade boys in Knox county. But, he was seeing the glass as half-empty and didn’t even want to go to the Elite meet because “what’s the point?”.

Let me pause to note that this blog isn’t meant to brag about my kid, although I am proud. Wait for the lesson…….-

Like last year, we told him that it was his choice to compete BUT this was a privilege just to make the track team, and especially to advance on. Bo explained that he was robbing another boy’s opportunity and filling a slot that another boy may have wanted; the fifth place may have really wanted to go yet only the top 4 qualify. Plus, I added, even if he’s comes in the last, that’s still 16th of ALL KNOX county’s 10-year-old boys. That alone is something to celebrate. So, after some debate and convincing, he flatly said, “I’ll do it”.

He didn’t want to practice. He didn’t talk or think a lot about it, as he had prior to the first meet when he cried when it was postponed. He was doing it and not super excited because he knew he wouldn’t win. So, last night with a packed stadium and over 800 kids, he went to that track again. He didn’t seem super nervous nor excited.

Drumroll…… (No, he did not win! 🙂 ) But, he placed 4th in his heat, out of 8. It was a good race with his best time of 15.28. He seemed happy, but quiet. No complaining or arguing why he should have placed higher. No tears. No boasting as we waited another hour and half to hear the results for who made it to the finals. We knew it would be close, as only the top 8 times make it.

He placed 9th, with one hundredth of a second behind the next qualifying boy! We/ he thought he would have qualified so there was a twinge of disappointment when his name was not announced over the loud speaker. But, this time he briefly looked down and then looked right back up. No tears and even smiled back at me when I told him it was ok. That’s winning.

That’s proof that we can teach our children humility and good sportsmanship. And, I say this as a parent of a child that has NOT been a good sport lately. I say this because he yells, argues, or pouts when his sister scores a goal on him in a casual game of soccer or when his dad beats him in a friendly game of basketball. I say this because he couldn’t accept not being first a couple weeks ago.

I say this because kids can learn, and so can adults. I say this because we all (including me) are so caught up in being the best that we lose sight of the race and big picture. Humility is a hard lesson. So, we have to have these conversations. We have to explain what being a good sport looks like. Too many times, parents just accept their children’s bad attitude because they’re just competitive. Or, parents complain and whine along with them that the referee was wrong, or they deserved to win. It’s easy to do.

But, that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make for a humble, kind human when we only accept winning. Would I have liked for Brody to make the finals? Sure. Was he a little disappointed? Sure. But, am I more proud that he walked away without tears or complaints this time? Yes. That’s winning. That’s sportsmanship.








2 thoughts on “The Winning Loser

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  1. Enjoy your blog. I live in Westmoreland Hills. My daughter and grands visited in August, went home to Philadelphia, PA, and two weeks later, my grandson was diagnosed with medullablastoma. so your column had special meaning to me in the magazine Westmoreland Life. I am sending your article to my daughter.
    My Grands tumor is related to a genetic defect, called FAP. He already was a cancer survivor from hepatoblastoma as a baby.
    Thanks for writing..while he is doing so well, the shock is still with us, and will never go away. Your son did an awesome job!


  2. Oh, that means so much to hear. I’m so sorry to hear that about your grandson. How old is he? It sounds like he had already endured a lot so he’s a fighter. I hope he keeps fighting and inspiring others. Kids are amazing and so resilient. I know what you mean about the shock but it’s also left our family with a sense of gratitude and celebration of little things. Stay hopeful! (We are on Rutgers so maybe we will meet sometime!)


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