“No Loser” events don’t help kids

Many schools and institutions have, over the past few decades, drifted toward an environment where children don’t ever feel the agony of defeat.  They hold events where no one keeps score, where no one wins or loses.  Little Leagues for baseball, softball, and football do this too early on.  The idea is to spare children from feeling upset when they don’t win.  Some see this as a benefit if everyone feels good and feels like they’ve won, even if they haven’t.

One public school has gone so far as to try to eliminate the urge to win.  Why?  Why participate in a decidedly competitive activity and not attempt to win?

Via ProgressivesToday —

The purpose of the day is for our school to get together for an enjoyable two hours of activities and provide an opportunity for students, teachers and parents to interact cooperatively. Since we believe that all of our children are winners, the need for athletic ability and the competitive “urge to win” will be kept to a minimum. The real reward will be the enjoyment and good feelings of participation.

field day

My first take is one this isn’t too popular.  Not all kids are winners.  I don’t mean this the school bully way “you’re a loser”.  Rather, not all kids possess the same athletic abilities.  Some kids are winners, broadly speaking, because of their natural and developed physical abilities.  The kids know this too.  But we’ve trained them to complain and cry when they don’t get what they want.  Instead of encouraging them to practice more and try harder next time, we console them and get them a prize too.

This doesn’t help them at all.  In fact, it’s a terrible disservice to them.  It doesn’t prepare them for life.  Life is full of competition.  University acceptance, employment, and promotion for example.  Not everyone will succeed to the same degree as everyone else.

I think ‘no loser’ events can have a long term impact on many children.  It teaches that no matter how hard or little you try, you’ll still benefit as though you performed the best.  Kids eventually realize this.  They keep score even if the adults don’t and it belittles the award the child gets who knows they lost.  They know they didn’t win even if you told them they did.  So why would you discourage the urge to win?

Why kill the motivation to try one’s best?  Why encourage a child to try their best if when they do, it isn’t rewarded?  If losing results in and feels the same as winning, who’ll give their best?  If at work someone gets paid the same whether they do their best or half-ass everything, what does production look like?  Here’s a hint: it looks like a public union employee (government) job.

Children are far too coddled these days.  With some parents, if they could get away with bubble wrapping their child, they would.  They don’t ever want them to feel any pain, any sadness, or any defeat.  This is dangerous for them.  They need to be prepared.  They need to learn how to cope.  Kids can’t cope these days.  Everything that doesn’t go their way causes emotional distress.  That’s sad.

Give kids something to earn, something to really try their best for.  Motivate them to give their all.  What we should do is what our grandparents did for our parents.  Celebrate our achievements and victories, and support us when we suffer defeat, and never confuse the two.


  1. John,

    I can tell you what goes on around here as far as Little League. They don’t keep score in Tee Ball or 4Pitch because each batter gets to go around the bases, ensuring all the kids get a chance to bat. They’re four and five year olds, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Aidan is in minors this year, and they not only keep score, they have playoffs and a championship trophy, one I expect his team to win! It gets highly competitive, which should be clear from some of my recent Facebook statuses. Our coaches have been accused of being jerks for “running up the score,” and I’ve been accused of being a “crooked umpire” because I grant no leeway outside of the plate. If the ball isn’t over the plate, it’s a ball unless the batter swings. Parents of pitchers don’t like that too much. Know what I say? Too bad. Teach your kid to throw the ball over the plate instead of eight inches outside the plate and I’ll call it a strike.

    Heck, we had one parent threaten our coaches. He didn’t like the fact that we stole home base about 10 times in a game. His son was the pitcher, of course. So every wild pitch, we stole another base. He wasn’t too happy. So, sometimes I think leagues do the whole “no winner or loser” thing just to keep parents from acting like fools. Parents don’t like it when their children lose or their team loses. They act like idiots.

    My philosophy is much the same as yours. You’re not teaching kids anything by preventing failure. Everyone needs to fail at some point in order to learn. If you throw a wild pitch and the other team scores a run, well, that teachers you to mind your pitches a little better. If you try to steal a base and get picked off, that’ll teach you. Kids need to learn the game, and they need to learn that effort isn’t always enough.

    • The softball division my youngest is in doesn’t keep official score because 6-8 yo’s are still trying to learn the basics. But when we started, they weren’t playing any outs even on forces and tags. I as a coach made my opinion known. It’s not fair. The girl who got the out is looking around like “but I got her out”. And that’s the ptoblem. I called my own daughter out because she meandered off 2nd and got tagged. It wouldn’t be fair to the girl who tagged her. If you don’t play with rules they stop trying because it doesn’t make a difference if they try for the out or not. No one’s feelings were hurt and it taught them to play their best because it matters.

      • 7 and up plays by regular baseball rules, except in the minors, which is what Aidan is in now, we don’t call pitchers for balking. But outs, strikes, balls, tags, and runs are all counted, and each game ends with a winner and a loser. And like I said, they even have a playoff and championship trophy.

        Aidan is really good and so next year he’ll probably end up playing on a travel team. Travel players are considered the best in the State. We have two travel teams in Bay City and even one of his coaches said he thinks by next year Aidan will be ready to play on one. And those travel leagues are even more competitive than regular Little League.

    • Right now we play 3 outs or batting through the order so we can move it along. It’s coach pitch and we don’t call strikes. We want them all to hit. I’m OK with that because they are still trying to get the mechanics out. In the next division up they use umps and everything is official.

      • Yeah. 4Pitch = Coach Pitch. I don’t know why they don’t call it “Coach Pitch” around here, but they call it 4Pitch. That’s what Aidan was in last year. He played 2 years of Tee Ball and one year of 4Pitch. We moved him to a different league this year because if he stayed at the same league, he would have been in 4Pitch again this year. And he’s much too good for 4Pitch. When I pitch to him, I pitch to him like I would an adult and he smacks it. And he just turned 7. Ever since he was little I knew he’d be a ball player.

        Only problem is he gets lazy. He needs some more work with batting. He has a tendency to stop swinging the second he connects with the ball. He doesn’t follow through so even though he hits the ball, it doesn’t go as far as it would if he swung through it instead of stopping. He also needs to work on covering bases.

  2. Cassy Klein says:

    It sounds like children are being prepared for affirmative action later in life.

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