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Kids And Competition – First Place vs Last Place

My daughter recently had a figure skating competition. Since the March competition was cancelled, this was the first one of the season. We signed her up for two events, the elements piece and a program. She was extremely excited about it and so were we.

I was so excited that I even made the above print for her room as a good luck gift. It is a Frozen inspired figure skating print. My husband came up with the quote and I did the design. We gave it to her that morning and she loved it.

We left early for the hour long drive to the rink. We even stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some fun, not so nutritious, road trip breakfast food. We got to the rink with plenty of time to spare before her competition. All was great with the world.

Her first event was the elements piece. This event is about showing the technical aspects of her skating level. There were four girls in her group. Each one was taking turns doing her elements and I noticed that my daughter wasn’t paying attention. She seemed more focused on the ice than on what was going on. When it was her turn, I noticed that she didn’t do the beginning part of one of the elements the same way the other girls did.

When she got off the ice, her coach informed us that she missed a piece of the element so she will probably get last place for it because everyone else did all of the pieces even though they may not have done them well. A little while later the results were in and she got last place, or fourth place which is what they called it. Each girl got a trophy with their place marked on it and she got a trophy that said “4th Place”. And she was happy.

Now obviously I want my daughter to win everything but I also know that she can’t always win. I am perfectly content with whatever place she gets as long as she is focused and tries her hardest. This may be why she was happy about receiving last place. However, I know that in this particular event, she was not focused and while she may have tried her hardest in what she did do, her lack of focus made her miss a crucial piece of an element which ultimately put her in last place. But she was happy….

And therein lies my dilemma. Do I just let her be happy with her fourth place trophy or do I burst her happy little bubble with the harsh truth? Do I really want to take away this sweet innocence that she still has? She will be 7 years old in July. How much longer can I shelter her from the pain that is caused by this type of not so good news? Should I keep sheltering her or should I try to explain last place to her with the least amount of harshness possible? How do I begin to explain it to her? So many questions and no answers.

At this point there are about two hours before her next event. My husband and I decided to sit her down for a little bit and explain to her what her trophy meant. It broke my heart to look at that proud and happy little girl knowing that we are about to completely crush her. So we started by asking her if she knew what her trophy meant. We then proceeded to explain to her that fourth place out of four skaters was really last place. We explained to her that she missed a piece of an element which is why she received last place to which she said that she tried her hardest. We told her that we know that however she wasn’t paying attention in between her turns which is why she missed a piece of the element. We also explained to her that while winning is great, it doesn’t matter what place she comes in, as long as she is focused and tries her hardest. At this point she seemed to understand and we were all happy with the outcome of our conversation.

And then my extremely competitive mom took her aside and started talking to her. My mom is like her mini coach when it comes to skating. She handles everything that has to do with the skating. She takes her to all of the practices, signs her up for all her shows and competitions, and buys her all of her costumes. Unfortunately, my mom is a no nonsense, critical, controlling type of person that has no patience. Needless to say she was not happy with my daughter for coming in last due to her lack of focus. Her attitude and critical method of explaining things took on more of the harsh route that I tried to avoid.

By the time the second event came around, this child had definitely had her share of support and criticism. However, the one true constant between both sets of conversations was that she needed to stay focused and try her hardest and that is all that matters. I watched my brave little girl go out to skate her program. I was such a proud mom watching my little girl skate her heart out. I held my breath the entire program and let out a sigh of relief at the end. She did an amazing job skating and she didn’t fall! She got second place in this event and we were all happy with that because you could tell that she really tried her best. After the competition, we all went out to dinner to celebrate my wonderful little girl.

That evening, after I put her to bed, I decided to do a little research regarding kids and competition. I was very surprised at how little information there is regarding this topic. So I sit here wondering if we did the right thing. Is she too young to have had this bubble burst? Was one method better than the other?

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