Over the last few weeks, my girls, Mattie and Makenzie, have been playing basketball at Patterson Baptist Church. Neither had played organized basketball before, but have played t-ball and softball for a couple of years. 

Both are having a grand time learning the game and the rules of basketball this season. It has been a thrill for Carrie and I to watch them play. They’re having a great time no matter what the end game score is. We have tried to teach them to be gracious in victory and in defeat. 

For many years, I have heard stories of kids’ recreation leagues no longer keeping score due to the supposed trauma losing can have on some young people. I understand that to an extent, but maybe they are missing the point. Throughout my experience playing sports, a loss was more motivation to work harder to improve. I learned it is easier to feel good about yourself after a win and pay no mind to coaches who are trying to help you improve. 

I believe we are setting our children up for failure if we do not expose them to some losses. When they are older, they will understand how to better cope and learn from those experiences of defeat.

Life is tough, and folks who can learn from their mistakes and improve have a better chance at success in the future. 

I also believe keeping score is essential to learning how to win in the correct manner. There is a respect that can only be earned through competing against someone with honor. 

My high school football coach, Mike Anthony, in Union, South Carolina always said, “act like you have been here before” following a big victory. 

Anthony was teaching us to celebrate with humility and not disrespect our opponents. Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game, shared, “after I hit a home run I had a habit of running the bases with my head down. I figured the pitcher already felt bad enough without me showing him up rounding the bases.”

There are several other qualities sports can teach including teamwork, the importance of practice and how hard work will pay off in the end. There is an indescribable joy and happiness for those who work hard and are able to win or succeed as a part of a team, either in sports, other hobbies or in the workplace. 

•Matt Gardner is the Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email him at mgardner@theblacksheartimes.com.