I'm getting old.
Lately, I'm starting more and more sentences with "When I was a kid..." or "When I was your age...". I find it happens often when discussing sports.
Now, lest you think I make a habit of discussing sports, I don't. But the value of team sports and other team co-curriculars for kids has always been, in my opinion, underestimated. Cooperation is a part of life, and the sooner one learns the importance of interdependence, the smoother things will go for them.
Competition is a part of life too, although education systems over the past couple of decades have done their best to devalue this part of life. Rather than teaching children how to win and lose gracefully while respecting the work done on both sides, schools seem more concerned with not damaging the "fragile self-esteem" of the children. While I certainly want good educators to help build my child's self-esteem, I think it's absurd to teach them that competition is bad. In any sport, any activity, any task in life, there will always be those more or less competent than you. More or less lucky than you. More or less efficient than you.
You either learn to deal with it or you don't.
Which means you either become a gracious winner AND loser or you run the risk of becoming negative, bitter or arrogant, not having learned how to do either very well at all.
Andre Dawson was a great baseball player who was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He learned as a child and throughout his career to be a gracious winner AND loser.
Being a professional baseball player for him wasn't as much about the notoriety, insane salaries or being on a World Series-bound team every year. It was about playing for the love of the game. It's reported that when Dawson's contract was up in Montreal, he wanted to play for one team and one team only. He sent a blank, signed contract to the manager of the Chicago Cubs. Dawson told them he didn't care what number showed up in the salary line, his blood ran Cubbie Blue.
If you follow professional baseball to any degree (or even if you don't, for that matter), you probably know that the Chicago Cubs aren't exactly known for being the winning team every year. Dawson didn't care. He knew that there was more to life than winning baseball games. He loved the sport and loved the Cubs. A living example of doing what you love and loving what you do.
Pretty good lesson, if you ask me.
My friend Stephanie is a lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool Chicago Cubs fan. She's learned a lot from Andre Dawson. You can read her thoughts here.
It's nice that in the craziness of self-esteem issues, steroid use and salary insanity, we have a few shining examples out there. Those who know that HOW you play the game determines how well you win or lose.
Love life, and it will love you back.