Kids’ Sports: Where Everyone Wins {Even if Your Team Loses}


kids' sportsLet me paint a little picture for you. It’s a beautiful, unseasonably warm Saturday, and hundreds of girls are in brightly colored t-shirts, running up and down the fields. Moms and dads are in those folding beach chairs cheering on their kids with a just-right level of enthusiasm, and coaches on the sidelines are offering helpful tidbits to turn our nine-year-old daughters into soccer stars. Sound familiar? Kind of?!

Well, that’s what we want to happen. However, we all know that’s not what always happens. 

I know kids’ sports has been a hot button topic over the past few years, with parents getting ejected from games for taking it over the line in their “cheering.” Our little town thought they knew just how to solve that problem. They tried to have “Silent Saturdays” where there was no cheering (note: that did NOT even last one weekend). Seriously, why can’t people cheer when their kid does well?

Another problem is the “everyone gets a trophy” issue. Is it right to let everyone get a trophy, or should only the team with the best record? I’m not sure how I feel about this issue. However, I know that sometimes kids need to learn lessons about how to lose.

My daughter plays on a rec team. Her team happens to be very good. During the first week of the season, her team played against another group of girls who were, shall we say, not as good. Within a few minutes, the score was 5-0 in our favor. This was when the opposing coach asked our coach to stop the team from scoring any more goals. Our coach was a little taken aback at this and didn’t directly tell our kids not to score. Instead, he asked the girls to work on defensive skills, passing more, and to make sure that before a shot on goal, the team passed the ball at least three times. It slowed things down, and we eventually (after a lot of passing) won 8-0. I didn’t like it, but I said nothing since it was the first week of the season.

Fast forward to the seventh game of the season (out of ten games in all). We faced the team again. The whistle blows, and within thirty seconds, we score. By the end of the first quarter, we were up by quite a few goals, and their team hadn’t once even been past the mid field. The opposing coach blew up. He started screaming at our coach. Our coach took a very high road and subbed in and out some players. By the half, the opposing coach was even angrier (we had dared to score one more goal). Our coach said, “Girls, nobody scores anymore today.” He directed them to pass the ball and not let the other team get it. He was very clear in that nobody was to score. WHAT?! Has anyone else experienced this? I was not happy. 

Whatever happened to “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” 

Now we need a new saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how much of a fit your coach throws for you. Besides, you’ll think you won anyway because we either won’t keep score, or you’ll get a trophy regardless.” It may be just me, but I’d rather talk to a team about why and how they lost. I’d instead create a learning opportunity and a chance for growth and self-reflection. 

What kind of lesson is that to send the girls on both teams? Well, lesson 1: If you complain enough, someone will take it easy on you. Lesson 2: Sometimes, you should not try your best. 

How can you tell children not to score in soccer? Whatever happened to losing? 

I remember being on a very good softball team as a kid. We won a lot, but we had one team we played that we could never beat. We got creamed by them. I mean, the games weren’t even close. It wasn’t the end of our world. It motivated us to push even more, practice, and try harder. Do I even remember if we ever beat that team? Nope. Not even a little bit. 

I do know I learned how to be a good sport by losing. 

Even after a huge loss, we still lined up, shook hands, and said good game, and our coach and family still showed us pride and support. It gave us a chance to learn from our mistakes. Without that learning opportunity, and with the “Everyone wins, everyone gets a trophy” attitude; kids will miss out on those lessons. 

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Perhaps that’s a reason why kids are so quick to throw a fit and have a meltdown when things don’t go their way. Maybe they need to lose now and again to appreciate the win. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know, but I think taking a loss is a much better lesson than not always giving it your best effort.  

And guess what? Due to budget cuts, my kid didn’t even get a trophy this year. And guess what? She’s fine. 

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Kristen is the proud mom of two wonderful, smart and sassy daughters (born in 2007 and 2011). Raising her kids as a single mom is a challenge and an adventure and she loves every minute of it. Kristen loves bringing up her girls in the same area of Westchester that she grew up in, having only moved a few miles from her childhood home. A long time passion for working with children led Kristen to pursue a career in education and she has been an elementary school teacher in the Bronx for over a decade. Her teaching career has taught her that every day is a new experience and to "expect the unexpected." If she can find any spare time between teaching and motherhood, Kristen likes to read, binge watch horrible romantic comedies on TV, bake, and go on road trips with her girls.


  1. Good read on a very controversial topic, I’m excited to enter the world of kids sports and try to navigate all the dynamics that come along with it.

  2. How are these children going to react when they hit the real world if we coddle them all the time? They have to learn to win and lose GRACIOUSLY. How will they handle the first time they don’t get a raise or they are passed over for a promotion? Throw a fit and go screaming? I’m not for the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. I’m for the ” just because we love you and think you’re the most special person in the world, the world doesn’t share that same view” mentality. For heavens sakes, if we as parents don’t do something different than what has been done in the recent past then we are going to be the ones cringing when our child is wearing vagina costume and having mental breakdowns when their candidate of choice didn’t win. Do we really want to send a care package to our college age children that include play doh and coloring books? I tell my girls how special they are and how smart they are and how much they are loved all the time but they also get a healthy dose of life isn’t fair as well. As parents, our job is to give them a soft place to land because the world is hard. As parents, our job is not to stand by while participation trophies are handed out and everyone is told that they are all winners ’cause they’re not! You get better by failing. Plain and simple. You see the mistakes you made and you correct them. You may fail 100 times but when you succeed that 101st time, you’ll know it’s because you worked for it.

  3. I completely agree! My daughter had a meltdown because she lost at bingo yesterday. BINGO. She wanted to have me buy her a prize because she didn’t win one. Not happening. She cried but learned that she can’t always be the winner and that it’s ok to just be there to have fun.
    It all comes down to the fact that children these days are not brought up with the same moral compass and sense of character as children in the past- and it is a large problem.

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