by Cheryl Jackson Friday September 19, 2008

What happens when your child doesn't make the team, or get that part in the school play they wanted so badly?

My three kids have competed against their peers many times, sometimes successfully, many times not. Whether they win or lose, there's always something to learn from it, and it's not always good.

When kids win, they feel guilty - "I won, and they didn't." They worry it will affect their friendships in some way.

When they lose, they're sad, confused, and sometimes feel like giving up. I can tell you that's happened in my family. My youngest daughter made the school baseball team in Grade 5 and 6, but was a "spare." Her teacher/coach rarely called her to play. She, and a couple of other girls who were also spares went to every practice and every game, and then sat and watched their team mates play. After a couple of years of that, she refused to try out again.

She also played flag football for one year, but didn't make the team the next year. Her friends who did felt badly for her. They all wanted to play together, because at their age, it was mainly a social activity. My daughter has now refused to try out for anything at school.

I feel sad for her. She wasn't the best player around, and I'd be the first to admit that. But now she's not a player at all. And she's 12. She's not running around on the field with her friends, she's not getting the exercise, and worst of all, she feels she's not very good at sports.

Why does elementary school sports have to be so competitive? Why can't the "team" play for fun, learn the skills together, get the exercise they need? And what are we teaching our kids when we say, "Some of you are good, and some of you are not"? Or, is this one of those inevitable life lessons that we all have to learn?

Check out our show on competition on Your Voice, where we'll ask our experts, "Should Kids Compete?"