Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25. Day 145. Try, try again

Today was Kids Tryathlon day at South Bank which only served to remind me of  this conversation that happens rather a lot in my house.
Son: "But I am trying mum".
Me "Yes, I know you are trying, very trying".
It is easy to say "if at first you don't succeed try, ty again" but always losing is a sure-fire recipe for giving up entirely. This is why today's schools are very likely to reward participation rather than just achievement - particularly in the younger grades.
Indeed so much has been said about the "every player wins a prize"  philosophy that it barely seems worth mentioning again. Of course, the fact that everyone else has already weighed in has never stopped me in the past so I see no reason to let it get in my way right now.
The two sides go like this. Side A says it doesn't matter whether you win or lose it's how you play the game that counts. This camp believes that too much of a focus on winning puts the children who are never going to cross the line first off even giving it a go. Why set kids up to feel like losers? If we want kids to engage, if we want them to exercise, if we want them to just have fun then the emphasis should be getting involved not taking the prize. Side B, however, says that telling kids it's okay to finish behind the pack gives no-one any incentive to push themselves. At some point we will realise that it's a competitive world out there. Where you work, what you earn and what prizes you pick up along the way are actually determined by where you finish in the race. Winners are grinners and you won't win unless you are prepared to put in the effort. Life doesn't hand out too many prizes for having a go.
In actual fact both are true. There is nothing wrong with getting in, having fun and giving it a go. Those who believe that winning isn't everything it's the only thing really miss the point about the joy of taking part. But it is also true that rewarding mediocrity gives little incentive for excellence.
So .... well let's face it how are you ever going to know what you are good at, what you enjoy and how much fun just having a go can be if winning is all that ever counts? It is this sort of attitude that has put many a kid off exercise all together - and yes I am talking about one of the things school sports taught me. It was only much later in life that I learned that just having a go at your own pace can be its own reward. And this is why I love the Tryathlon. In all 1700 kids took part and yes there were swimming, running and bike legs. But the emphasis was not on tri but on the Try - the give it a go. There weren't any winners or losers and there was a medal for every competitor.
And you know what? Every one of those 1700 kids gave it their best shot even without there being a winner. No-one cared if you had a racing bike or training wheels just as long as you got in and gave it a go. Try that on for size.


  1. I absolutely love that it's called a tryathlon and the ethos of this challenge. Looking at something like this, just completing it is a reward in itself, forget about which position you come. I agree that children do need to learn to push themselves to achieve the best that they can, but that we also need to foster a philosophy of it being ok to not win at everything as long as you give it a go and try your hardest.

    Nipping over from Country Kids.

  2. A fantastic event for all the competitors who should be very proud of themselves for taking part - what a sense of achievement they must feel. Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.