Part one can be found here and part two can be found here.

There is a great scene in the animated movie, The Incredibles. The son Dash is being "encouraged" by his parents. One of his parents tells him that everyone is special. Under his breath he replies, "Then no one is."

We are stuck on this idea that everyone is exceptional, special and a winner.

Of course, if these things are true than no one is actually any of them. Some people are good at math, while others are good at stringing words together. Some people can sing, some can play sports, some can cook and clean. Some people can do amazing things with a pencil, others do amazing things with fire and sand.

Yes, we are all unique. Yes, we are all have skills, talents, and abilities that make us unique. But have we gone to far. Are we creating a generation of people that expect to win just for showing up? Personally, I think the answer to that question is yes.

I have a problem with this mentality. I think it is hurting our society. When I was a teacher, I would hear all the time about the unfairness of life. Student X was upset because she wasn't getting the playing time she deserved. Parent after parent would ask me how their child would get better if he or she did not play in the game. I would get the it's not fair that she or he practices as much as the other person and doesn't get to play. 

My daughter played soccer a number of years ago. She loved it. She wasn't very good. It's not a value judgement on her, it is simply a statement of fact as someone who has coached for a number of years. She might be god some day, but the truth is at this point I doubt it. She did not enjoy running, which is a rather critical component of soccer. She has moved onto dance. She loves it. I have no idea if she is good or not from a critical point of view but I love watching her. I love the ways her eyes shimmer when she talks about dance.

What is interesting to me is that she knew she wasn't very good. She still got the same ribbon as everyone else on her team. Just for showing up.

A friend of mine has a son that played on a baseball team. He batted a thousand for the season and scored every time he came to bat. I have no idea what that would make his slugging percentage but I would think it would be really high. You see, he played in a league where every time a batter hit the ball he or she ran all of the bases. Every time, no matter what. At the end of the season he got an award, just for showing up.

He was ill prepared for the next season when three strikes meant you were out.

When I worked as an athletic director, I instituted rules and guidelines for people to earn a letter in a sport. To that point in the schools history, simply showing up meant you made the team and earned a letter. One of my favorite student athletes failed to earn his letter while his older and younger brother did make it. Two girls on the women's basketball team also failed.

"But they really tried." "It's not fair." "He's really disappointed." "I don't like to see him hurt."

Essentially they could have just said, "Look, trying is enough."

Of course, this isn't really true. What about the people who applied for the same job opening that you did and didn't get it because you got it. What about the people who put a bid on the same house that you are now living in. Do you want them moving in because they really wanted the house?

What do you think? Do you think people are being taught that you win just for showing up? If not, why are you still reading this? 🙂 If so, do you think that is a good or bad thing?

On Monday, I'll begin to explain the problems inherent in the idea of winning just for showing up.

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One Comment

  1. Wow, I think you just answered my question in the other post about examples of how “everyone wins” is happening today. When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade playing in Little League, there was one game where it was my turn to bat and my coach sent a pitch-hitter in for me – we had a chance to win and frankly I didn’t present the best chance for getting a hit. It was “devastating” at at the time, and even though I played baseball for a few more years, I always knew I wasn’t even close to one of the best players. Eventually I moved on to other things that I was good at.
    I guess that’s the thing, though. There’s nothing wrong with kids playing sports or taking part in other activities that they enjoy, but aren’t good at. But there comes a point in life when you need to focus on the things that you ARE good at – at least if you want to make a career of them. But when you grow up thinking you’re a star baseball player because you get a home-run (albeit manufactured) every time you go up to bat, then how will you ever learn what you truly are good at?
    This also begs the question, what is this effort to boost the self-esteem of the batter doing for the self-esteem of the defensive players? After all, the majority of action you ever get in a real baseball game is on defense (you bat 3-5 times a game, but you’re in the field 8-9 times). The underlying message in that approach, though, is that offense is really all that matters, and if you make a great defensive play, who cares, because the batter is scoring anyway.
    We’re creating a world where every kid who wants to play baseball dreams of growing up to be a designated hitter!

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