- Rebecca Purdy
After watching the Olympics for sixteen glorious yet exhausting days I have learned more about losing than winning. There were amazing accomplishments, but while I cheered for the winners, it was those who handled their defeat with an admirable and touching dignity and grace, that truly resonated. Anyone who has played a game with a young child or a sore loser of any age knows that losing gracefully and good sportsmanship are invaluable lessons. These books capture the spirit of that childhood love for winning even when they don’t.
Olympian Mia Hamm learned at a young age that “Winners Never Quit.” As a child, she played soccer with her brothers and sisters and loved the cheers she received when she kicked the ball straight into the net. “But sometimes it didn’t work that way” and no goal meant no cheering. One day, when her older sister blocked all of her shots, Mia quit even though it meant her team wouldn’t have enough players. “Mia didn’t care. She’d rather quit than lose.” The next day, Mia ran outside ready to play, but the game had already started. Her brothers and sisters weren’t going to play with someone they couldn’t depend on. The day after that, she was back in the game and her sister blocked her goal. Tears filled her eyes, but she had learned. She “still hated losing, but she didn’t hate it as much as she loved soccer.”
The beginning reader “Cork & Fuzz: Good Sports” by Dori Chaconas is the story of two friends, an opossum named Fuzz, and a muskrat named Cork, both of whom like to win. Unfortunately for Cork, Fuzz beat him every time happily shouting “I win! I win” leaving Cork to declare, “I do not like this game.” One day, Cork suggests a game he knows Fuzz can’t win--”a swim race!” Before Fuzz can say a word, Cork is swimming “swoosh! swoosh! swoosh” across the pond. When he reaches the other side, it is his turn to shout, “I win! I win!” but Fuzz isn’t there. Cork swam back and, finding no sign, begins to cry, “My best friend has sunk!” Finally, Cork discovers Fuzz hiding in a bush having changed the game to hide-and-seek” so his friend could legitimately win. But the idea of losing a friend always provides a little perspective; Cork no longer cared about winning, only that Fuzz was okay.
American Girl’s “Good Sports: Winning. Losing. And Everything in Between” by Therese Kauchak is a non-fiction title that addresses how to be a good loser and a good winner, but also offers competition related problem solving. Advice is given for sharing a concern with your coach and how to handle an overly enthusiastic parent. Mental aspects are addressed in sections entitled, “Mind Power” which advises firing the internal scorekeeper and “Chase Butterflies” suggesting athletes stay fierce and focused like a tiger. Cartoon-like illustrations, photographs and brief athlete interviews are mixed with short paragraphs making this book an accessible read for a well-rounded athlete.
Originally published in the 8/13/12 Free Lance-Star newspaper.