In our house, we try not to overemphasize winning. An overly competitive spirit in the home (and as a worldview) can sow quite a bit of hostility between family and friends who are supposed to love one another.

Strange how easy it is to lose our minds over this one, isn’t it? Does the game really matter enough to lose one’s temper? Our emotional resources are limited and precious. Losing them to dumb stuff is a bad trade.

When it comes to youth sports–my kids are probably sick of hearing their Dad remind them why we play: to work hard; get some exercise; make friends (experience team); and have fun. Win or lose.

They’ll take the cues from parents. If parents can’t stand to lose, and communicate that to their children, it will reflect in the attitudes displayed on the field and off. Win with grace. Lose with dignity. Play fair. Respect the coaches and officials even if you feel they’ve made mistakes. The character formation is invaluable–but it can backfire if they’re learning the wrong lessons.

Here’s C.S. Lewis commenting on the competitive spirit of his boarding school:

The truth is that organized and compulsory games had, in my day, banished the element of play from school almost entirely. There was no time to play (in the proper sense of the word). The rivalry was too fierce, the prizes too glittering, the “hell of failure” too severe.

C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, 98.