Play to Win — Always

by Lorraine Esposito on March 22, 2012

in You as a parent,Your kids

The Evolution of Winning

Stage 1 – Bolster Ego

When my boys were young, they lacked the physical skills to be true contenders.  My message about winning had little to do with the final score; it was about being a good sport and enjoying the game.

Winning was about how you behaved during game play.

I was wrong

Stage 2 – Public Image

As my kids improved skills, the message included a little more emphasis on the final score.  Now, “being a good sport” meant winning graciously and “enjoying the game” meant celebrating victory.

Winning was about socially acceptable ways of winning or losing.

I was wrong

Stage 3 – Avoid Conflict

Growing competition between my boys at home caused me to add a new approach to winning:

Play to Win


Play to Play

Playing to play means no score keeping because the purpose of playing is to simply have fun.  Of course they both kept score and competed just as before, but the pressure to get along while competing helped tame outward displays of gloating.

Winning was important but sometimes you had to fake it to get along.

I was wrong, again.

All about me

To this point my messages were about me looking like a winner.  Stages 1 and 2 were about being the perfect parent with the perfect messages and then I just wanted to avoid conflict in Stage 3. Though stage 3 comes close to my present idea, truthfully I just wanted to control the bickering.

Stage 4 – Always Play to Win

Playing for a Trophy


Playing for the Prize

The trophy proves you’re the greatest.  Victory is decided by the scoreboard, the game makers, and the fans.  It’s what we’re told to play for.

The prize is much more.  The prize is the personal reason you decided to play.  Sure, it can be the trophy, but it can also be to create friendships, sharpen a skill, feel part of a team, become fit, etc. The prize is whatever you say winning is about while the trophy is what other people say it’s about.

Why and What

Without understanding why you’re playing and what you’re playing for, winning the trophy could cost you the prize.  I coach my boys to approach everything they do with the prize in mind.

Stage 4 in Action – A Little Coaching Before the Football Game

Mom:  What are you playing for today?

Jack:  I want to be tough, remember the plays, and have fun with my friends.

Mom:  How will you know you’ve won?

Jack:  I’ll be tired afterward, my coaches will tell me I did a good job, and I’ll get high-fives from my friends.

Mom:  You realize you didn’t mention the score, right?

Jack:  Oh, right.  I want our team to win, too.

Mom:  Well, if you play to be tough, remember your plays, and have fun with your friends, you’ll have done your part and you team is likely to win the game.  Go out there and play to win your game and let the scoreboard take care of itself.

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