She was so close yet seemed to care so little. My daughter was one beanbag away from landing all three bags in hoops placed at various distances but the last toss skipped through the ring and without a care in the world she meandered to the back of the line. Not a, “RATS!” or a kick of the ground. Not even a, “C’MON, pull it together next time, will ya!” There was skipping and water sipping and visiting with friends.
“Why is she skipping and water sipping and visiting with friends?” I asked myself, exasperated by her lack of a competitive killer spirit on her first Sports Day here in the UK. Sports Days are common place in schools here and consist of beanbag tosses, and rope skipping, egg and spoon relays and other such intensive contests. “Why isn’t she focusing on the next toss?”
And that is when the subtle thought entered my mind that my daughter may simply be content to have fun sometimes and not be competitive all the time (if that is even possible!). I quickly chased the idea from my mind and began helping her understand that if she tossed the beanbags instead of throwing them she’d have more control and possibly score three out of three. I got that, “Whatever, dad” look.
Now let me just state I’m NOT one of those parents. You know the type, they shout through the backstop at the umpire during a T-ball game, or shadow the coach constantly telling him why their kid ought to be moved to a more strategic position. I set out three years ago when my daughter played on her first soccer team to encourage participation and fun. It never crossed my mind that there are people in this world who somehow have managed to separate competition/winning and fun, so imagine my surprise when my kiddo didn’t particularly like the games, but simply loved being at practice with her teammates.
“My name is Chris,” I could just see myself meekly say with lowered head to an ex-jock, win-at-all costs Competitive Dad’s Anonymous support group. “I have a great kid, exceptional in math and reading, respectful to her mom and I and to other adults, who enjoys music and art and friends and dress-up and butterflies and strawberries and trampolines, but most times when it comes to competition is content to….participate.”
Funny thing is, my daughter is competitive. She hates losing at board games and loves nothing more than to beat her daddy at, well anything and everything. The smallest thing is a competition. Backgammon is a Battle Royal. Beating me is fun. Losing brings on the waterworks. I’ve tried to tell her, “There’s no crying in Backgammon!” I’ve even heard myself say, “Try your best and if you lose that’s okay. It’s about having fun competing.”
And come to find out that is what Sports Day in the UK is about. Teachers spent most of their time encouraging five, six and seven year old boys and girls to stick with it, keep trying, “keep chin up.” Enjoy the competition. And fortunately these fine teachers weren’t interrupted by any of those parents. I don’t think there was a child who will look back on this day and say they didn’t have any fun, including my daughter, who gave Sports Day two thumbs up.
She’ll never remember that third beanbag that skipped through the hoop, and I need to learn to celebrate the two she landed.