This Is More Important Than Winning

It’s good that your kids participate in sports. It gives them confidence. It keeps them active. It shows them the value of teamwork. It gives them the thrill of victory. These are all things we hope they’ll carry with them in life.

That was Theodore Roosevelt’s view. He loved “manly sports.” Football. Wrestling. He took his kids, as we’ve said, on daily adventures, on long hikes and through obstacle courses, coming up with contests to keep it all competitive.

Yet, as much as he loved these contests, as much as he expected his kids to be winners, he was quite clear that he never wanted sports to, “degenerate into the sole end of any one’s existence.” Because what counted more, he said, was character. “A man must develop his physical prowess up to a certain point,” he wrote to his son, “but after he has reached that point there are other things that count more…I am glad you should play football; I am glad that you should box; I am glad that you should ride and shoot and walk and row as well as you do. I should be very sorry if you did not do these things. But don’t ever get into the frame of mind which regards these things as constituting the end to which all your energies must be devoted, or even the major portion of your energies.”

So teach your kids to hit home runs, to drain that three, to throw that perfect spiral. And don’t be afraid to teach them to win. Just make sure you also teach them that winning does not make them a winner–that as good as it feels to be good at something, what’s better is being a good person and having good character. Teach them to shake hands after the game–especially after a loss. Teach them to help their opponent up after a hard foul.

Sports are a wonderful part of life but as Roosevelt said, they are not the sole end of one’s life…even if one is lucky enough to do it professionally. Show them what it means to be a good teammate.

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