Play to Win — Always

Playing for the trophy may cost you the ultimate prize.

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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Author: Lorraine Esposito

Lorraine Esposito 914-410-7502 Lorraine Esposito is a certified professional life coach, mentor coach, owner of The Center for Coaching Mastery at Westchester Community College in New York, and nationally recognized author of The Peacemaker Parent, Solving Problems for Today, Teaching Independence for a Lifetime, Lorraine is the featured life coach for a popular New York radio station, WFAS 103.9 FM and is in collaboration with and featured blogger for the National Football League and USA Football adding a ‘coach approach’ to coaching youth sports. Lorraine’s client base includes CEO’s in the entertainment industry, White House and Capitol Hill public affairs staff, entrepreneurs, global TED speakers, award winning writers, new coaches just starting out, successful business women between 40 and 55 looking for more out of life, and parents needing a little help making good on their parenting promises. Lorraine’s career matches the diversity in her coaching practices. Starting out in the rural mid-west, Lorraine has owned four small businesses; the first, an automobile repair center, started at age 16. Her corporate experience is mainly in negotiating multimillion dollar contracts as the buyer of domestic in-flight food and beverages for Trans World Airlines and then as a procurement manager for the New York City Transit Authority. Lorraine’s strength has always been creatively finding solutions to even the most complicated goal. In addition, Lorraine’s 30 years as a professional fitness coach continues to add depth to all her endeavors. She has been featured in various print, broadcast, and on-line media and is a public speaker regarding personal leadership to community and school-based audiences. Lorraine lives in New York with her husband and two teenage sons.

7 thoughts on “Play to Win — Always”

  1. This is great! I noticed that we’ve turned out a generation of kids who think they’re “entitled” to the spoils of the victor whether they did anything to “win the prize” or not. We haven’t taught our kids that the world “plays to win,” and therefore they need to learn those skills too. Good sportsmanship, grace, respect and having fun are great, but recognize that there are more times in life that playing to win involves all those AND being the best.

  2. Pingback: Playing it Risky!

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