"It's alright. I'm happy for everyone." That was my answer when I was informed that I was clapping for the wrong team at my daughter Audra's Hoop Dreams Game. That ladies and gentlemen, is the full extent of my competitive edge. So what if the kid in a blue t-shirt made the basket instead of one of the tyke's wearing red like my daughter. The color of the shirt most likely had to do with when the kids were signed up for the activity. In my mind, nothing else separated them.
On a Saturday morning at the YMCA watching a bunch of four and five year old boys and girls run back and forth on the court all I care about is how darn cute they are, what good exercise Audra is getting, and how soon I can get my next cup of coffee. I'm fairly certain that is the sentiment of most of the parents who sit on the sidelines and watch their little moppets but even in something as innocent as toddler b-ball a tinge of good, better, best emerges. The parents (me included) can't help but break into thunderous applause when a basket is made. The moans and groans are march-madness-ri-fic when a basket is missed. It's a natural impulse. We can't seem to help ourselves because we all grew up on a steady diet of "winning is everything". Even if that ideology didn't show up in our homes, we could not escape the message in school and in our culture.
What if we applauded the basket and the miss? Or what if the game was met with no applause at all? Okay, that would be weird. I'm not the type who believes in building artificial self esteem where everything is "Amazing" and every attempt at anything means the kids is a genius but I do wish there was a way to delay the inevitable programming related to winning and losing.
After Audra's "game" I observed a coach running some drills with some older kids. They did a passing sequence and then a kid shot the ball...and missed. "He shoots," said the coach, "And scores," he continued even though it wasn't true. I appreciated that. What mattered to the coach was the process, not the result; the journey not the destination.
I'm not sure if this is right or if somehow I will be depriving Audra of some important edge that will ensure her future success. All I know is that when I teach improvisation and acting and we play a game in order to highlight an important point, my students start to froth at the mouth at the very thought of winning. If I happen to miss adding a point to one of the team's scores, you'd think I was messing with the last few minutes of the World Series. The truth is, I could care less about the score and I try to encourage them not to care either.
In Audra's case, I hope she always maintains that beaming smile as she runs across the court and looks to see if I'm watching. I swear it could land a plane. Because it's not about winning or losing. It's about playing the game. Right?