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Everyone Wins – Today’s Sports Culture


‘How do you solve the problem of not having someone lose?” Porter says. “Because I’ve now, for four years, seen the downside of losing: 50% of the time the person who loses never comes back to play the game.” An interesting perspective from the developer of the game Draw Something.

Fast Company article (click here)

Club Volleyball is popular because tournament structures are set up to feel as if teams aren’t losers at the end. Even a team that finished 25th (of 100+ teams) is often tied with a number of other teams, but they finished by “winning their division” with a “bronze medal”. It is actually an ingenuous formula set-up to entice teams teams and players to come back to the game over time. Great for volleyball and a strategy that needs to be built upon to make our game continue to grow.

I presented the issue to John Kessel, here is his response:

The format, developed by Dave Epperson with lots of input from coaches, myself included – was set up in no small way to reduce seeding problems for a possible 40 RVA event, in true format you keep your seed even if you lose games or by points, to encourage coaches to play more subs. I know this, from being there for decades, that the character division, the last group of any age division, is a more exciting match than the championship finals. I also know, from testing, that when we did extended double elimination to truly rank from 1-64, coaches even forfeited rather than play off for 48th, or 62nd place.

So it’s obviously all Dave and Kessel’s fault. Kidding.

The paradox, since everyone feels like a winner, is today’s sports culture responsible for not developing “genuine” winners? Is it subliminally teaching that mediocrity is winning? Is it teaching youth that what they are doing is “good enough”?

Obviously hypothetical questions from a coach that coaches in a work environment in which winning our conference championship (winning that bronze medal) is success. But the deeper thought process is how do we develop kids that genuinely understand the difference between real winning and losing?


  1. I believe the answer is ‘It depends’. We can define winning in numerous ways. With my club program, we define ‘winning’ away from the scoreboard–has a kid learned to jump serve, made new friends, gained self-confidence, earned a college scholarship. Those are tangible victories.

    We are aware that we won’t win often on a scoreboard–we have too many kids from rural schools with limited practice time (because those kids are multi-sport athletes).

    Call me old/grumpy, but I don’t remember winning being crucial when I was young–but I also remember it was me and my friends with a basketball hoop or on a baseball diamond–without adult organization. How much of this need to “win” is imposed on children by adults?

  2. I like the question posed by Jim “How much of this need to “win” is imposed on children by adults?” I feel similar in that I played organized hockey, basketball, football, and even tried baseball growing up into my teenage years, and stuck with basketball after high school and into college. I lost many games I’m sure, but guess what, I don’t know how many. I just know that you learn what you can from them. I played Division 1 College Basketball on a fully funded and NCAA tournament represented team, and never once can I recall memories from any point during that time in which the losing as a team stuck with me, or gave me a notion that I was somehow “not good enough.” I was an extremely competitive person, but I think this message of “not good enough” or “losing/loser” comes from the parents, or the environment in which the child is raised, and a sports team can only enhance this message of self worth whether it is good or bad. I feel that the message of “good enough or not good enough” doesn’t come from the sport though, or the simple final score of the game. The notion of feeling positive of negative (irregardless of the score), comes from the coaches, the teammates, the parental influences in that child’s life. That’s why I don’t think the score or the true winner conversation is tied ultimately to sports. It is ultimately a “nurture” issue and how the child was raised or influenced, and sports is another stage to enhance that. If you win or lose there are just as many things to learn, and important lessons to take away, winning is just “more fun” than losing, so you continue to competitively compete to win instead of losing.

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