When we were kids, my younger brother owned a sweatshirt with words on the front that read,
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you look playing the game.”
Oddly enough, this statement was accompanied by a cartoon penguin wearing a baseball cap. Apparently this image was to help convey the message that we too could look as cool as an athletic penguin while competing in sports. Built-in tuxedo not included.
Regardless of the marketing scheme, I remember the motto. “…it’s how you look playing the game.”
I never really bought into the sentiment.
I’m more for playing the game with determination and grit than winning any style points. But, as I’ve gotten older, and have become a mother to young athletes of my own, I’ve changed my mind a little.
The sentiment has taken on a new meaning to me.
Don’t get me wrong; I care very little about my kids’ appearance on the court or field when it comes to their fashion. The cartoon penguin may have them beat in the “cool” department.
But, I do care about how my children look during their sporting events.
How they look in the manner of what they do.
Because what they do is an overflow of who they are.
For example, if my son accidently collides with an opponent at first base, I’m concerned about what his next actions look like. Will he get up and brush himself off and argue with the umpire over the call? Or will he get up and reach out his hand to help his opponent to his feet? No matter the umpire’s call.
If my daughter is called for a travel on the basketball court, will she slam the ball down and roll her eyes, or toss the ball to the referee and continue to play the game to the best of her ability? Even if she knows in her heart she didn’t travel in the first place.
If my son’s team wins on a buzz beater will he still line up to give the other team high fives and congratulate them for a game well played?
If my son’s team loses a heartbreaker, and he’s the one to miss the game-deciding free throw, will he still believe his life is no less valuable than it was twenty minutes before?
You see, how my kids look during their athletic competitions is the indicator of who they are that I can see as their mother. Their actions are an overflow of their heart. Their responses and reactions to the game show me their character.
And as their mom, I care deeply about their character.
Matthew 12:34b says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
I want them to be children who value kindness more than victory. Empathy more than points. Integrity more than statistics. Sportsmanship more than sports.
I want them to look their coaches in the eye and truly listen to their instruction. I want them to be respectful to the referees, as well as to their own teammates, and opponents. In victory, or in defeat.
Don’t get me wrong. I want them to win. They get their competitive nature from both their dad and me. And it’s a pretty strong one at that! But, as much as I want them to win, I care about their character even more.
The games will end. The scoreboard lights will be turned off. But who my kids are, as a result of what they learn on the court, will remain. And that’s how I ultimately define winning now.
I guess how they look playing the game is pretty important to me now.
Too bad I don’t have one of those penguin sweatshirts to wear to their games.
This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Winning Women website: “Connecting and Equipping the Female in Sport.”