children, competition and possibly the best advert for sport ever

People sometimes try to keep children away from competitive sport.  There all sorts of reasons for this avoidance.  Someone gets beat.  That’s bad for self esteem.  Someone wins.  They might get over confident.

Yesterday Nadal and Federer provided the best Wimbledon final since Borg and McEnroe.  Simply brilliant.  It had everything.  Comebacks, tie breaks, rain delays and some of the best tennis ever seen.

Did either Nadal or Federer look over confident?  Did either look devastated?  No.

Sport provides winners and losers.  For the past 3 years Federer has been number 1 in the world.  For the past 3 years Nadal has been number 2.  Did that make Nadal a loser?  No.  Did it make him try harder?  Strive to be better?  Yes.  Did being the best for so long make Federer less gracious, complacent and lazy?  No.

The BBC have become fond of using Kiplings poem IF at great sporting events.  A line from that great poem is written on the wall of wimbledon:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

Surely that is the lesson that sport teaches.  Winning yesterday doesn’t make Nadal a better man and losing doesn’t make Federer any less of a man.  The manner in which they won and lost, the grace and charity and respect they showed each other, is what marks them out as great men.

Why would we ever want to take that lesson away from our children?  People will say it’s the taking part that counts.  I would agree, but part of taking part is learning that triumph and disaster are impostors.  Without facing those two we miss the only lesson sport has for us.  And we miss enriching our children with one of lifes greatest lessons.

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