Lessons in Losing
When you’re a smart and thoughtful 8 year-old, surrounded by five equally smart and hardworking kids, it hurts to lose – even when you never set out to win. That’s all I could think as I watched my son’s team at the closing awards ceremony for Odyssey of the Mind’s Bay Area Regional Competition.
As we “walked” into the gym, they asked, “Do you think we won? Do you think we could win? Do think we’re going to State?” They pulled on my sleeves, tapped my hands and jumped up in front of my face, “Yeah, do you think we could go to State and then, W-O-R-L-D?!” WAIT and STOP, were the only words running through my head.
In fact, they didn’t walk into the awards ceremony. This mild-mannered team of thoughtful and kind kids were jumping, screaming and waving. They couldn’t hear my gentle reminder that this was our first time at the competition and that they were the youngest team in their division. They were already celebrating victory. But, wait (!), didn’t we parents all agree that we weren’t “in it to win it,” and didn’t we stress to the children this was about the journey of learning and fun – not winning? At that moment, sitting with 100 other teams on the gym floor, my little team wanted to win it – badly. And, to my surprise, I did too!
In fact, it wasn’t even a “want,” it was an expectation to win for them. They had worked very hard (all on their own) to draft a script, solve problems, make costumes, and design a set. We coaches weren’t allowed to participate, other than to ask smart questions and keep them on track to help solve an open-ended problem. They loved working independently – deciding what to do without any adult intervention.
Mostly, they were so proud of their efforts, and thus, so certain that they would win. Or, at the very least, be recognized as one of the top six teams. They didn’t win and no one even mentioned their team because they finished second to last. It was heartbreaking to watch as a coach. My co-coach and I patted backs and gave hugs. We whispered words of encouragement and discussed how they would be even more prepared for next year’s competition.Continued on the next page