Let the Game Be the Winner
Yes we love a game here at GAME PLAY LEARN. We promote exploratory learning through ‘Let the Game be the Teacher’. Now we can find winning’s place in sport if we ‘Let the Game be the Winner’. GAME PLAY LEARN’s own Joey Peters shares this message.
I was a special guest at a primary school assembly to present some awards and give a short speech as ‘Joey Peters: Former Matilda and Olympian’. It was their end-of-term assembly with the school song, the school band, they even had a school mascot!
I was involved in facilitating their school soccer competition with 10 other schools in the district. 200 young girls from 9-12 years old, all in the one place, every week, playing small-sided games. (For more see below**)
For someone that’d come from being the only girl that played with the boys in primary school, it was personally amazing for me to see that many girls enjoying the game together.
I felt privileged to be apart of it all, I couldn’t help but have fun with the girls and make that connection as, what we call ‘soccerchix’, and so it was nice to also be invited to one of their assemblies.
The principal gave a fitting address about what it takes to be successful, needing determination and persistence, inspiring everyone to achieve more.
We handed out the trophies, applauded the high achievers, now it was my turn.
What could I say to group of young students that would be a deeper message than just the old cliches of ‘what it takes to play for your country’, or ‘work hard to achieve’?
What was something I could pass on that was more than just about winning and succeeding? There’s enough pressures for kids in sport these days, why do we focus so much on achievement when there’s so much more to enjoy and learn from The Game? I was going to give it what us Aussies call ‘a good crack’.
“When I played for the Matildas, there was a lot of pressure to win. In fact, at that level it’s all about winning, getting a medal and striving to be the best.”
“We all like to win, and actually it’s important to want to win. Because if you don’t want to win then you’re not going to play The Game properly and then we let others down and we let The Game down.”
“But there’s an old saying that helps us realise that playing a game is more than just about us winning. ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
“So if we’re going to enjoy sport for all the good things, including winning, why don’t we play and Let The Game Be The Winner?!”
“I wish we had a trophy up here for The Game. Because we need to remember when we play any game, that we need to Let The Game Be The Winner.”
I then asked the children, “What’s important when we play a game?”
“Sportsmanship!” said one of the girls.
“Yes, that’s a good one! We need to be a ‘good sport’ and play fair. We need to respect that the opposition is trying to win just like we’re trying to win, so we’re going to have a good game and enjoy playing with each other rather than hating each other for trying to beat each other.”
I was then able to share how I’d been inspired by the girls soccer days and saw them Let The Game Be The Winner through their sportsmanship.
“If there was an uneven team, I saw the girls sort it out, ‘I’ll help you out, I’ll go on your team!’ And so The Game was The Winner… What else is important to The Game?”
A little boy spoke up this time, “The rules!”
“Yes! The rules are important,” I agreed. “but do you know what the fun thing about playing The Game is? You can make up your own rules.” (The Game Designer in me was very eager here 🙂 )
“In another game I saw, the ball kept going out, it was hard to keep the ball in play, and the game had to keep stopping and re-starting again. So they decided to have ‘no-out’s and if the ball went ‘out’, they just keep playing and then the game didn’t stop…So was The Game The Winner?”
They all shouted back “YES!”
As much as I was enjoying the moment, I had to wrap it up.
“So let’s remember next time we play a game, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but how you can Let The Game Be The Winner.”
I hoped that helped a little, to put winning in it’s place. Especially for the kids. They don’t need to be exposed to our corrupt adult world of competition any earlier than neccessary. If they can sit winning where it needs to go, they can get on with enjoying the game and working out how they want to play the game, how they work together as a team, and how they work with the opposition, to make it the best game ever. That’s where the fun is, that’s where learning happens, and the real reasons for why we play the game is fulfilled and satisfied.
**A young teacher bravely implemented a new format to their school football days which included small-sided games. There were not enough teachers to look after every team so the girls had to go to the field, find their opposition and get The Game going. I was in a Facilitative role if the girls needed any help. Mostly I could stand back, observe and be inspired, watching these girls playing and owning their game. Some teachers thought the girls were ‘fussing’ when it would take them awhile to start the game, but I knew that was the best part of the game. They were collaborating and working out the game. What’s the game? How many on a team? Who’s turn is it to be substitute? Who starts with the ball… Where is the ball? So many questions that would usually be taken care of by an adult, now fell into the hands of 9-12 year olds girls. It was beautiful to watch. Girls that had hardly played before, playing, enjoying and owning the game. I was inspired. I’ve come along way from my ‘elitist’ perspective on sport and now truly appreciated games for their value in the here and now. No longer looking for the next talent or judging the quality of competition. This was true development. When you find something that is inclusive NOT exclusive, competitive AND fun, chaotic YET collaborative, your onto something special. And here it was, and not that hard to implement if only us adults would be ok with giving the game back to the kids.