Private School Tour: It’s not how you win or lose, it’s how you play the game

Don Gillingham

By Don Gillingham
Executive Director, Rockford Lutheran School

In the recent past, there was a TV commercial that just drove me crazy. A group of very young baseball players were talking about the irrelevance of the outcome of the game that had just concluded. The moment to remember is that if you win or lose, after the game, we are going to Pizza Hut. I believe this concept, carried to its extreme, provides the inescapable demise of American culture. Where is Horatio Alger when we need him?

If life is all about drawing lines, then we must carefully draw a line between the value of participation and our acceptance of those who feel empowered to simply walk through an event, a performance, an exercise or a task. I would much prefer that instead of “pizza for all” we adopt the philosophy, it matters not how you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

Our young people enrolled in schools today certainly need to understand that life has winners and losers. They need to know that their performance has consequences and that in all things we must strive for the best outcome. I remember a third-grade joke that has implications for education today. Debbie asks, “What animal is smarter than a talking horse?” Susie replies, “A Spelling Bee.” Spelling Bees take on an enormous significance in the life of a grade-school student. Having to stand and deliver is a teaching moment that must be a part of every child’s education. The nervousness one experiences from being only one of two students still standing helps us to grow. Being eliminated in the first round because we rushed through our response teaches a valuable lesson.

At Rockford Lutheran High School, we offer a range of co-curricular activities. The world pays attention to regionals, championships and appearances in state tournaments. But for the player who does not see significant playing time, there are still important lessons. For the student who must go through the decision process of making an inbounds pass, there is value in weighing options and taking decisive action.

As the adults in the lives of young people, we need to encourage competition and help those in our care to understand the ramifications of the two elements of competition that they can control. Whether on stage, in a classroom or on an athletic field, all of us are held responsible for effort and attitude. Our schools would be wise to adopt a philosophy that says our expectation is that you compare yourself to only one person, and that is the person that you were yesterday. Education is about growth. Education is about challenge. And so, the time that a student spends in school is not only about the future, but it is about the challenges that we face today.

Right answers and right decisions matter in the workplace and on the tee ball field. Parents need to support their young people and help them to understand how both successes and failures contribute to their ultimate success.

Don Gillingham came to Rockford Lutheran School in January 2010 to fill the office of executive director. Since that time, he has become involved in efforts to unify the community and help us focus on what brings us together.

From the March 13-19, 2013, issue

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