Should Everyone Get A Prize: Why do we shy away from Losing?

So, I was recently at an annual golf event where the tradition is after, we all gather for a beautiful meal and the award of prizes and the coveted ‘cup’. A variety of ‘consolation prizes’ were awarded. Most, but not all the participants received a prize. This prompted a bit of outrage on the part of a friend. The issue taken stemmed from the question the friend asked a group of us, why weren’t all the participants given a prize?

To this I and another friend responded everyone doesn’t have to get a prize and that in real life that’s just how the cookie crumbles. This position may come across as somewhat cold and uncaring. That’s not my intent. I’m setting out to actually make a case for honesty in recognizing winning and losing.

Why Shy Away From Losing?

You know how in recreational sports the score keeper is instructed to hide the truth from the team that is being decimated by the other team. They are told not to post scores after say a 6 to 8 nothing lead. What’s the reason for doing this? Are they trying to ‘save’ our children from possible demoralization that comes from losing badly to another team? I found this practice very curious. So, naturally I had to survey our sons to get their take on it. Many years ago when our younger son was in his fourth or so year of playing hockey I asked him and some of his team mates about this. Their emphatic response was- we know what the real score is anyway! So why shy away from losing? If we hide the truth of the score and pussy-foot around the fact the team or the person lost- what message are we sending them about role losing can and do play in a successful life?

Should Everyone Get A Prize???

This brings me back to the question posed by the friend. When we give everyone who participated in an event a prize, what is the message we are sending? Where is the honesty in honouring hard work put in by some along the same lines as those who just showed up? How will our children navigate the work world when they are prepped to expect a prize every time they attempt something? Rather than doling out prizes-could we instead dole out words of acknowledgement and encouragement to those who showed up and those who showed up to fully participate? Should we be challenging them to build and improve on what they accomplished next time?

An Honest Win Requires a Clear Plan of Action

As a coach I acknowledge my clients for taking steps towards their goals no matter how small. I celebrate the small wins with them by acknowledging them however, I am held accountable to keep my clients moving forward- to achieve specific goals. Hence, I challenge them to rise above their last accomplishment- to’ win the cup’. This they can only do by honestly working to their best and it needs a clear plan of action.

What would you do if…?

One of the strong benefits of coaching is it keeps the coachee moving forward while being present and not living in the past or jumping ahead in the future. There’s a time when I’m coaching I encourage my clients to answer the questions- What would you do if…? Or what will happen when…?

This approach though somewhat contrary to the principles of coaching is a powerful strategy to support my clients in their planning and goal setting. It allows the coachee to create mental and eventually physical strategies to overcome obstacles and barriers that do inevitably show up in life. It prepares them by allowing them to role play a number of scenarios that could go against achieving their goals. When they do face these scenarios they would have been mentally prepared to effectively manage their way through them. This is why win or lose- a client who is well prepared will deal with either one in a healthy way.



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