Watching your kids compete – bad mum or bad loser?

“Welcome to the English School’s National Athletics Championships from the Alexander Stadium Birmingham. Today you will get up at five for a two-hour drive to sit , with no leg room, in sweltering heat proudly watching your daughter Evie representing her county at high jump, an event at which she obviously excels. Unfortunately, she will only be jumping about 8 times for a total of 3 minutes  so you will be required to sit through 2 hours of watching other people’s daughters jumping higher than your own disappointed offspring and  you are not allowed anywhere near her to comfort her as she would die of embarrassment. You must pretend not to be reading your book and clap in a desultory fashion as someone successfully leaps backwards over a bar onto a big cushion, and congratulate the winner and her entourage through gritted teeth.

In addition to this torture, you will be required to feel terrible as you witness a boy who for the second year in a row, fell in the 400 metre hurdles, his parents having driven overnight from Germany to watch him. And howl as a girl in the 100m, who cruising through her heats way ahead of the competition then stumbled as she came out of the blocks in the final,  collapsing in tears on national TV as she fell over the line second…”

Am I alone in feeling a bit excluded by these events?  I am all for ensuring kids eat healthily and get regular exercise but why do we encourage our them to become sports people obsessed with getting hot and sweaty, willing to endure regular disappointment and be able to get up and say ‘ oh well better get up a bit earlier/train a bit harder/eat fewer chips so I can do it all again next week’ (and mean it)?  Why don’t they just have a bar of chocolate, pick up a book and say ‘oh sod that for a  lark’?

Analysing these feelings, as is my wont I am actually guilt ridden and feel as if I am in some quiet way letting my daughter down. Although intensely proud of her I can’t bear her disappointment and would much rather she just gave up and came shopping with me on a Saturday instead. My husband can really enter into the spirit of the thing and talk technique/training/trying harder. Or why you shouldn’t eat that chocolate but try a pear and a yoghurt instead, saving carbs for loading up before the event (or something).

And maybe I am just being hypocritical. If there were a 100m creative writing relay or a marathon reading race then I would expect all my friends and family to sit for hours cheering me on. Perhaps that explains why I enjoy writing this blog….

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4 Responses to Watching your kids compete – bad mum or bad loser?

  1. Jamie knight says:


    I know how you feel, I cannot say I really understand competitive sport? While I love riding my bike and the thrill of achieving my own personal challenge (riding to the top woop) as soon as someone gets out the stopwatch I start to groan!

    On the other hand I wonder how it feels once your at the top? Is it worth it? I suppose if all your self worth is sat in being good at something knowing where you are (be it first or 3rd) is a motivation and some thing to be proud about.

    At the same time I also like to think… I could do that only I chose the pie!

    Great post good luck with the writing.

    Jamie + lion

  2. Brian Meeks says:

    This was a wonderful post. As someone who has spent his life competing, I can say that without the loses, the victories wouldn’t be so sweet.

    In college, I took up chess. I loved it. I played day after day and usually lost. I was 28, having returned to school after failing to take over the world without a college education. I met a young man, Christian, who was a much better chess player.

    Every few days we would run into one another in the student union. We would sit down and play. I never won. I tried my best but got beaten, usually quite badly, each time. This went on for the entire fall semester. The defeat he handed me just before Christmas break was particularly stunning, as I was actually ahead for a while, but he cleverly came back to thrash me.

    Over break I studied opening theory, specifically The French Defense advanced variation, as he always opened with e4 as white, and then the Sicilian Defense, Yugoslav variation, 9th move to c4. Which was what I would likely see, when I played white. These were his favorites and after and day after day I studied.

    When we returned to school, I ran into Christian, we sat down and played. I tapped his hand and he turned it over to show the white pawn. We began and nine moves later I played the bishop to c4. It had gone exactly as I had imagined. It was a spirited battle and he made a bit of a blunder and I beat him. My first win. It was fantastic.

    Obviously he had not been in his best frame of mind, as I had not really ever given him a good test, and the blunder was unusual. The next day, when we sat across from one another, he had his game face on. He was white and I played the French Defense Advanced variation. The game was very tight. Two hours in, we were dead even and many of the pieces were being attacked multiple times, and defended just as many.

    I sat at the board and considered all the possible moves I could see. If I made a capture, it would start a chain of events which would lead to many pieces leaving the board. The number of possible moves was staggering. I stared at the board for 30 minutes. Then I saw it, the 6th move out, he would not be able to recapture with his rook. I would win the exchange, that is, if I hadn’t missed something.

    I took his bishop. He looked at the board for 10 minutes, and captured back. Thwack went his hand on the clock. Instantly, I took the knight, and slammed my hand down, with a confident thwack of my own. This shocked him a bit. He took 20 minutes looking at the board, and then captured back.

    It had been 30 minutes since I made my initial move in the 6 move plan I envisioned, and we were exactly where I thought we would be. It felt like I had looked into the future. Such a rush. Again, I didn’t hesitate, and captured.

    It was obvious to Christian that I knew something he didn’t. We were close to the end now, and he stared at the board for another 20 minutes. Then he saw it, four moves from that point, I would take and he couldn’t move his rook, or he would be check mated.

    He sat up straight in his chair. Let out a breath, and knocked his king over. He had resigned, I had won! The triumph was glorious. He stood up, reached across the table and shook my hand. He looked down at the board one more time and said, “I can’t beat you anymore. Good game.”

    I never saw him again.

    It is the trials in life, which make the triumphs taste so sweet. And it is knowing this, that makes us strive to be better than we once were. This is what competition teaches us….if we let it.

    • keatsbabe says:

      Thanks Brian! I will pass your comment on to my son, who instead of getting hot and sweaty running and jumping over things took the more cerebral path to become school chess champion. I can’t say I am terribly competitive, but I don’t like to lose. When failing dismally at yet another school sporting event, or on the one occasion I agreed (against my better judgment) to referee a football match (the 10 yr olds couldn’t believe they had a female ref) I feigned injury to make my total lack of talent just slightly less obvious. Clearly, cheaating would be more my game..

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