This is the most recent post from my weekly blog, Sports Lessons For Life. You've heard Robert Fulghum's saying that All I Ever Need To Know About Life, I learned In Kindergarten. I contend that everything you need to succeed in life you can learn through sports. Please visit www.erinmirabella.com for more information.
Try This At Home……
(I know the description of the game below is long, but the actual game is short, so just stay with me. It’s worth it, I promise. Your kids will really get it.)
You will need: a timer, plate, small bowl, teaspoon, 15 Cheerios, square of baker’s chocolate, three squares of baker’s chocolate and one piece of regular chocolate.
Hide the regular chocolate out of sight, and don’t let on that the baker’s chocolate doesn’t taste good.
Put fifteen Cheerios into the small bowl. Place the bowl and an empty plate in front of your child. Tell them that this is a new game and you want to play it with them. Make sure when you are explaining what to do, that you tell them, “these are the rules.” Using their fingers, they have to pick the Cheerios up out of the bowl one at a time and place them on the plate. They may hold the bowl if they like. If they can move all fifteen Cheerios in ten seconds, then they get a piece of chocolate. Show them the one square of baker’s chocolate. Have them go ahead and play. Don’t tell them this, but they will lose; it’s impossible. Afterward, tell them they did a good job and that they can do it again, but that this time, you’ll make it a little easier. Tell them, “These are the new rules.” They can now use a teaspoon to scoop the fifteen Cheerios out of the bowl and onto the plate. If they can do it in less than ten seconds, then they can have the square of chocolate. (The baker’s chocolate.) If they move the Cheerios really, really fast, in less than three seconds, then they can have the three squares of chocolate. (The baker’s chocolate.) Set the timer and just as you’re about the start say, “You know what? It’s against the rules, but if you want to just dump the bowl of Cheerios out onto the plate, I won’t tell anyone. It will definitely take less than three seconds if you do it that way.” Then set the timer and say go.
If they use the spoon and do it in less than ten seconds, swap out the one square of baker’s chocolate with the real chocolate and then go on to explain the game to them. (See below.) * If they don’t do it in ten seconds, have them try again. With a little practice they should be able too. If they are very young and still not good with a spoon allow them fifteen seconds.
If they dump the bowl onto the plate, give them the three squares of bitter chocolate, let them take a bite, and then explain the game to them. (See below.) They will obviously not like the chocolate.
Here’s what the game is about.
If they used the spoon and won the real chocolate, tell them the following: The first time they played the game using only their fingers, they didn’t accomplish their goal. Sometimes that happens in life. Instead of giving up, they had found another tool, allowed by the rules, which helped them to do the task better. Using that tool, the spoon, they were able to get the cheerios onto the plate in ten seconds and win the chocolate. In real life, as they hone their talents and practice, they will gain tools that help them reach their goals too. Since they didn’t dump the bowl, congratulate them on following the rules and not being tempted to cheat. If they haven’t already, have them eat the yummy, regular chocolate. Tell them that the chocolate is sweet, like their success when they win with honesty and integrity. (If you need to, explain what those two things are.) Next, let them taste the square of bitter chocolate. Explain that if they had chosen to bend the rules and cheat, they would still have reached their goal and won the prize, but that because they cheated to win, the victory wouldn’t have been sweet. It would have been a bitter victory, just like the baker’s chocolate. Even if they had gotten away with it, they would still know, deep down, that they hadn’t earned their prize with integrity and honesty. Tell them, that just like you did, sometimes people will encourage them to bend the rules or compromise their morals, and they need to stand their ground. It’s better to lose and play fair, than to cheat and win. After cheating, the win is always bitter.
If they dumped the bowl onto the plate, tell them the following: Let them take a bite of the baker’s chocolate. Explain that by not following the rules and dumping the bowl instead of using the spoon, they had cheated. They had reached the goal and won the prize, but because they cheated, the victory wasn’t sweet, it was bitter. Just like the baker’s chocolate. It was nothing to be proud of. Even if they had gotten away with it, they would still know, deep down, that they hadn’t earned their prize with integrity and honesty. (If you need to, explain what those two things are.) Tell them, that just like you did, sometimes people will encourage them to bend the rules or compromise their morals, and they need to stand their ground. It’s better to lose and play fair, than to cheat and win. After cheating, the win is always bitter. Then explain that the first time they played the game, with just their fingers, they hadn’t accomplished their goal. Sometimes that happens in life. Instead of giving up, they had found another tool, allowed by the rules, which helped them do the task better. Had they used that tool, the spoon, they would have been able to get the cheerios onto the plate in ten seconds and would have won the real chocolate. In real life, as they hone their talents and practice, they will gain tools that help them reach their goals too. Remind them next time, to choose to play with honesty and integrity, so that they can have a victory to be proud of; a victory as sweet as the real chocolate.
According to dictionary.com
Honesty is: noun, plural -ties.
1. the quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairness.
2. truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness.
3. freedom from deceit or fraud.
Integrity is: noun
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.
Back while I was still racing, I remember chatting to the guy next to me on an airplane. The topic of doping in sports came up. A few minutes into the conversation, he told me that he didn’t see what was wrong with using drugs in sport, if that is what it took to win. I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. I couldn’t believe, that even if he felt that way, he was willing to say it out loud.
He’s the first person I remember telling me that, but he certainly wasn’t the last. Over and over, I’ve heard all sorts of celebrities and regular folks talk about winning at all cost, doing whatever it takes and that the end justifies the means. I just don’t get it. Could they really hold a gold medal in their hands, acquire a new asset in business or accept a higher position and feel proud if they had cheated and compromised their morals to get it? Sadly, for some, the answer is probably yes. They obviously have justified it to themselves. For other’s, the answer is no, they wouldn’t feel proud, but that still doesn’t always stop them from accepting the prize. I just don’t get how they can look at themselves in the mirror and not blush with embarrassment.
I don’t want my children to learn that winning at all cost, is winning. I want my children to know that how they win, is just as important as winning. Winning isn’t about a medal, money, new job, or fame. Our worldly obsession with the end result has made us lose sight of what winning really represents: hard work, sweat equity, integrity, honesty, respect for ourselves and others and the amazing high and sense of accomplishment you feel when you reach the goal that you’ve worked so hard for. The rest is just a bonus.
At the 2004 Olympic Games, I raced the best points race of my life and I crossed the finish line in fourth place. I was ecstatic, and then I realized I’d just taken fourth at the Olympics. GRRRRRRRR. Some say that fourth is the worst place to take at the Olympics, but I can tell them from experience, that 13th feels much worse. I’d gone to the Olympics wanting to, win or lose, be able to say that I’d raced my best. I had accomplished that. Several days later, I found out that the bronze medallist had tested positive for a banned substance and that the bronze medal was going to be awarded to me. I was elated, but I have to admit I felt a little cheated that I hadn’t been able to participate in the awards ceremony. I ended up having a very special ceremony back in the states and had a great time being the bronze medallist. Then, fourteen months later, I got some devastating news. There had been several appeals and the Court of Arbitration of Sport had decided to overturn their decision. I had no previous knowledge of any appeal and had no clue that this was coming. The United States Olympic Committee didn’t even know about it. We were completely blindsided. I went through every range of emotion: denial, anger, embarrassment, depression, bewilderment, etc. Everyone wanted to know what I thought and what I wanted to do. The United States Olympic Committee hired an attorney for me to speak with. At first, I was praying that it was just a bad dream and that I’d wake up and it would all be over. After a day or so, I found myself paying that God would just let what ever was right happen. I decided to send the medal back and this is why. If she hadn’t cheated, then she had earned the medal and it belonged to her. I had always been proud of my fourth place performance and being awarded the bronze medal hadn’t changed that. I didn’t really see the point of fighting it anyway. Even if I got to keep the medal, it would never feel the same; it would always be tainted. I’d always wonder if it were supposed to be hanging around someone else’s neck. Mailing back that medal was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I am completely at peace with it. I know I did the right thing. There are more important things than a medal, even an Olympic one. Now as a mom, I understand that even more.
Ask your child what they would have done in my situation?
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