I always knew as a young child that when I grew up I would not be the type of person to brag or revel at someone else’s defeat. I was always a compassionate kid as I learned very well from my parents. I believed that competition in sport was important but it was not a driving force in my way of thinking. Sure I enjoyed winning and I knew that it certainly felt better than losing but it wasn’t my modus operandi. I felt that I would survive even if I wasn’t the absolute best. To be honest who needs all that pressure. I would never inflict that kind of pressure on my son. Sure I want him to always do his best and to take pride in what he does and to show respect to others. That comes without question but I don’t want him to feel burdened that he has to win at all costs. To me I believe that if you sincerely have a desire to do well in something you enjoy and you work at it and practice and try your best than the rest will take care of itself.
I have heard stories of kids losing their innocence and their youth because it was drilled into them at a young age that they have to always work hard to be the best and they had to operate under the premise that they will not be happy unless they win. I believe to some degree you should have a desire to win but I do not believe that you should be told that winning is everything and you should never settle for less because that can lead to disappointment and personal struggles. Many kids can not handle that kind of pressure and find themselves seeking escapes to get away from it. When it gets to that point then the joy of the sport and competition is lost and the focus is on something that is just an ideal and then I believe the damage has been done. We don’t intend to impose this on our kids but we should be clear on the agenda at hand. Is it what we want or what our child wants. We must think long and hard about that.
I have seen many winning athletes who did learn in their youth that winning indeed was everything and found something very refreshing about them in post interviews. Most of them were very humble in their winning performance and they credited their fellow athletes and they were very complimentary of their coaches, their families, their teammates and their fellow competitors. To me I find that trait a wonderful thing and that really is the measure of a person in my book. I also admire the athlete who comes in last place but keeps on trying and never gives up. To me they are very special too.
As a kid growing up I knew school was very important and I realized that very soon in my life when I saw my mom take a sincere interest in making sure I always completed my assignments and understood how to do them. She reviewed my homework and was always very supportive. My dad was also very supportive in providing me encouragement. I teach this to my son as I learned it and my wife makes sure Matthew completes his assignments and understands them. It is very important to do your best in school and be responsible and independent. These are valuable lessons that we all must learn if we wish to achieve success in our lives. I believe that we need to have a well balanced mix of academics, arts and sports to shape our lives and develop as individuals. I was very responsible with my school work and I always tried my best to be prepared for the academic challenges. I also wanted to participate in sports and when I was on the cross country team racing I took it very seriously. I wasn’t a top runner but I still practiced and developed a good regimen and always appeared at coach’s workouts. I took my running very seriously and was always trying my best in my races.
I learned very quickly that I wasn’t going to win my races but I knew that if I ran within myself and did my best and completed the race regardless of winning then I should be proud. Coach always was encouraging and knew I was a work horse and for that I gained his respect and the respect of my peers. I want to teach this to Matthew but sometimes things like this can only be learned by direct experiences and that is why I think it is important to balance my son’s interests with a healthy mix of academics, arts and sports.
I also want to teach my son about being gentle, honest, compassionate and to learn to respect others and to always have humility and to always find things of interest that will spark a desire to perform and achieve. We don’t have to win but we should always try to do our best. This is one of life’s lessons that we should always hold on to and learn that enjoying something and having fun with it is more important than winning. I tell my son that we all are winners no matter what if at the end of the day we know we tried our best. When you know this then you have learned something pretty important. Having humility and trying your best are the keys and I will always share this with my son.
Edward D. Iannielli III