BLOG: Kids sport: Winning doesn't matter? Arse to that.

Em asks: Is it better to be fair during kids sports or to be the winner?


The further I get into this parenting caper, the more I realise that there are serious cracks in the system.

I acknowledge that I have a some what unconventional style of Mothering and I certainly do not proclaim to have all if any of the answers but I do believe that I have uncovered a blind spot, a break in the matrix, a weakness in the force that needs addressing.

It’s the whole telling kids that “winning and performance doesn’t matter” situation.

Here is a predicament I found myself in recently. I want you all to read it and put yourself in my place honestly and truly. If you want to method act: I was wearing jeans, converse and a leopard print hoodie. I was feeling a little weary and had a slight headache from lack of caffeine and sleep. Are you all there? GREAT!

Totally superfluous side note alert: My kid is a state level track and field athlete, we have the t-shirts and medals to prove it. Over the weekend she competed in the Eastern Metropolitan regional relays. This is the pre-cursor to the Victorian state relays. It’s not a come and try day, it’s not even a regular low-key comp day. It’s a legit ‘let’s get this sh*t done while in matching hair ribbons and uniforms’ day.

It matters.

A mother of one of my daughter Chella’s team mates organised the team. And she was a bloody marvel. She made excel spread sheets, sent emails, paid registration fees and did all the things I’ve heard mothers are supposed to do but have never been able to accomplish myself.

I arrived to be told that we had five girls and as each relay consisted of four, there was a complicated rotation system being put in place. This was to ensure that the whole thing was FAIR and that everyone had FUN. (This was a fact of which I would have been aware had I have bothered to read the series of aforementioned organisational emails.)

What the what? I had given up a whole Sunday to sit in the rain, after two dancing concerts, Friday night maths comp and a full week at work, to just have FUN?! ARSE TO THAT! I thought – let’s try and win this shit!

Obviously this is inner sanctum stuff, it’s just between us guys – I would have never said that out loud in the public arena.

I have come to learn that sometimes my thoughts and reactions to certain situations may be looked upon as strange. So I am forced to live a double life. You see, on the inside I am a hard line, psycho stage Mum, internally fist pumping every time my brilliant daughter wins a race. On the outside I think I read as a supportive, slightly nutty, enthusiastic Mum with an eye twitch.

Yes, it is exhausting being me.

Em Rusciano

As I allowed the first race to go down, it became apparent that some of the girls weren’t as fast as the others. It also became apparent that if we were to have any hope of making state finals (which was the aim of the day) we needed to run our strongest team at all times regardless of fairness.

The girls also figured this out for themselves.


The girls knew what they wanted (to make it to the next round) and were involved in some pretty complicated discussions about how they could get there. In the end they decided between themselves that the four fastest girls should run and the fifth (who wasn’t as fast) would sit out even though it wasn’t her turn to.

This is the marvelous thing about children, if parents stay out of stuff, they will often come up with the solution on their own. I have come to realise it’s more often than not parents who stuff up organised sport, in a myriad of ways.

But the wonderful organising mother (who is also a teacher) would have NONE of it. She was fixated on everyone getting a fair shot. She ended up sitting her own kid out (who incidentally is the fastest at the club). Subsequently, we lost the heat and didn’t even make it through to the final on the day.

The girls were shattered. No one was having fun, but we’d been fair!

Which was the source of my confusion and the conception of this post.

Our intention was to progress BUT we also wanted to be fair and not focus too much on the results?

FACT: In most organised junior sports, if you don’t perform- you don’t progress.

Shenanigans I say! Mixed messages anyone?

“Hey Chella, just have fun and give it your best but society will slowly condition you to believe that deep down all that really matters is winning and achieving because those who rise to the top are the ones considered successful and celebrated.  But totes have fun out there!”

If we as parents were absolutely fair dinkum about the whole “participation is more important than results” situation then why have grand finals, state championships, or even keep records?

The catch is, we all know that out in the big bad world those who strive to achieve results and be the best are the ones who get ahead. The ones who are just in it for fun sometimes end up owning a lot of “smoking paraphernalia”.

How can we prepare our children for reality when up until the age of ten then are being told they are god’s gift to everything?

I am truly asking your advice here. I am quite sure I cannot maintain my double life and I am going to have to eventually fall either side of the hard line.

Do you have the answer?

Well, do you?!

Me is confused.

There was not a chapter on this in “What to expect when you’re expecting:” Do we encourage results based competing or fun? Is there a way to combine them both? My new theory is that we just take the parents out of it and throw the kids in “Lord of the flies” style. I reckon they would take care of business just fine without us.

I’m happy just to watch from behind the barbed wire..

Silently, fist pumping.

Em. x

Em Rusciano is the host of Mamamia Today on Austereo (which you should be tuning into at 3pm every weekday on the Today Network) and regularly appears on Network Ten’s ’The Project’. You should follow her on Twitter here and take a look at her website here. You can listen to podcasts of Mamamia today here.