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What do you normally ask your kids after a game, recital, or other event? Most parents ask, “How’d ya do?” What do your kids usually say? “We won” or “we lost” or maybe “I didn’t do very well.” What usually ends the conversation? “Congratulations” or “That’s too bad.”

Who We Become is More Important Than the Games We Win

Top 20 trainer and co-author Tom Cody coached high school girls’ basketball for 21 years. Many of his teams won conference and section championships. A few of his teams with brilliant won-loss records turned out to be the least successful groups he coached. Although they produced several victories, they did not experience teamwork, life lessons, or lasting relationships. One year, Tom’s 13-16 (won-loss record) team shockingly made it all the way to the state tournament. This team played together, learned together, and matured together. Many of the players on that team are still close friends and have also enjoyed success in their personal lives. That team turned out to be one of the most successful groups Tom has ever coached.


Winning and losing are significant events in the lives of kids. Top 20 parents realize that both winning and losing offer wonderful and potentially dangerous results for young people. Young athletes who experience winning benefit by learning that they have what it takes to be successful. This can help develop their confidence and motivate them to strive for even greater challenges. Tweet this

On the other hand, winning has such a high value in our culture that it can create pressure on youth to win at all costs. Contemporary concerns stemming from this way of thinking are cheating and increased use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by young athletes. Furthermore, the emphasis on winning can result in young people believing that their inner worth only comes from achievement.

If guided properly, kids can benefit from losing. Losing provides a healthy perspective. It keeps us humble and highlights areas where improvement can be made. Although this perspective can happen through winning, losing also provides opportunities that strengthen the bonds between kids.

Cody Comment

Get this on the record: I am 100% in favor of healthy competition for young people. I am a very competitive person and I thoroughly enjoyed my coaching career. I do not understand people who can just volley a ping pong ball back and forth . . . without keeping score. I enjoy the Sunday crossword puzzle, but I am also aware of my fastest solution times. I think we do our six-year-olds a disservice when we tell them that every T-ball game must end with a tie score or that every swimmer in a race has to win a ribbon.

Losing without having significant experiences of success can diminish a student’s confidence. It can develop in a youngster a reluctance to try things in the future unless success is assured. The fear of failing or losing can keep kids locked inside their Comfort Zone. A “loser’s” mentality can influence a student to withdraw from life and not engage in healthy risk-taking activities.

Top 20 parents know that young people have three options: Winning, losing, and not participating. The first two options are greatly preferred over sitting out. There are countless benefits that can be obtained by young people when they are involved in band, drama, clubs, sports, or other co-curricular activities. Showing up and either winning or losing is much more beneficial for our young people than not showing up at all.

So, one of the responses to “Hey, how’d ya do?” can certainly center on winning and losing. But there are several other ways to answer this important question.


If we watched young children at play, what would be the most notable thing we observed about them? We would witness fun at its primal level. Having fun by playing is truly recreation.

Whether it is the stress that young people experience in school or work or in their relationships with other people, having fun allows an outlet in which recreation can be re-created. Play and fun refresh the human spirit. Tweet this

For many adults, however, recreation is more like “wreck”-reation. As we play games, we are driven to compete with a necessity to win and prove our worth. What is it that makes a grown person swear and throw a golf club when that little white ball doesn’t go right down the middle of the fairway? Adult play is often not about having fun but getting stressed out.

Parents: Stop and think back to your own childhood. Think of that first ball you ever played with. The soccer ball you kicked off the garage door after supper, the wiffle ball that got stuck up in the tree. Are your kids having that same simple pleasure when they participate in programs that are uber-organized?

Oddly enough, when Top 20 Training has presented these ideas to young athletes, their number one response to “How’d ya do?” has been about the concept of fun. While it is up to Top 20 coaches to accept the responsibility to direct practices and co-curricular activities in such a manner that young people are having fun, it is also the parents’ job to reinforce this idea.

These two concepts—“win and lose” and “fun”—are a good start to expanding on the “How’d Ya Do?” question. Learning these tools is important, but actually using them is what makes all the difference.


Many times, parents place too much emphasis on the outcomes, and fail to direct their youngsters to the primary reason that we play sports or become involved in other recreational activities. Think about it. When was the last time you asked your daughter if she had any fun at her basketball practice or violin lesson?

This doesn’t mean, of course, that life’s supposed to be fun all the time. Hard work, adversity, and disappointment should also be part of the learning experience. Top 20 parents are aware of the balance between fun and the rest of the outcomes.

When you ask, “How’d ya do?” listen closely to hear if the word “fun” ever pops up.

Top 20 Training empowers students, parents, teachers, and coaches to develop their potential and make a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of others. Having worked with over 500,000 teachers and educational leaders nationwide, they have developed one-of-a-kind training seminars that are practical and immediately applicable. They also offer support materials (books, curricula, teacher’s manuals, and inservice kits) to help teachers effectively implement Top 20 content into their classrooms. Visit us at www.top20training.com or follow us on Twitter @top20training

Thought for the Week

Finding ways to engage students, increase learning efficiency, and extending recall of what students learn can be a constant quest. Fortunately, designing activities and employing strategies that release the flow of dopamine in our students’ brains can help us to meet this challenge, especially now.

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