Why Having Fun Is More Important Than Winning

I was watching an athletic event on TV the other day (not on purpose, I was on a stationary bike at gym at the time) when something struck me as odd about one of the high jumpers. It took me a minute or two to figure it out and then it dawned on me.

The guy was smiling. He smiled in the lead up to his jump and he smiled afterwards, as well. He made the jump, but I think he would have smiled even if he hadnít. He was just enjoying himself.

I started paying closer attention and it turns out people (men in particular) donít smile much when theyíre playing sports. It doesnít matter if itís a solo endeavour or a team sport, many of these athletes are all about the serious.

Of course, thereís always some back slapping and camaraderie when a goal is scored, but other than that they tend to keep their game face on. Iím not naive, I get that they canít just cavort and be silly, but I also think thereís too much emphasis placed on winning.

Itís as if the game didnít happen unless we bring home a medal or a trophy to prove otherwise. Hence the advent of participation trophies in recent years. Rather than have our kids feel less than for not winning, we placate them with an “also ran.”


Donít get me wrong, Iím not suggesting that a competitive spirit doesnít have merit. It absolutely does. But winning isnít everything;†itís just one possible result when you participate in sports or games or life, for that matter.

Rather than asking who won, we should focus on things like teamwork, enjoyment, skills and so on. So long as youíre improving in those areas, winning is inconsequential. Ironically though, itís precisely when you do focus on those other attributes that winning often happens.

Learning how to lose is an important part of growing up. Itíll be a far easier lesson to grasp, however, if more importance was placed on having a good time, playing well as a team and honing your ball skills.


After seeing the happy high jumper, I wondered if Iíd come across other sportspeople who had a similar ĎIím here to enjoy myselfí attitude. Watching Nat Geoís Breaking 2, I found my guy. The documentary followed three of the worldís most elite distance runners as they attempted to break the two-hour marathon barrier.

One of them was Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. Hailed as the greatest marathoner of the modern era, Eliud is an incredibly humble and down to earth person. This shines through in the interviews throughout the documentary, but it was the smile that played on his face while he ran that caught my attention. This man was all about enjoyment. Winning was secondary for him.

Spoiler alert:†He won the race, but missed the record by a minute. His response? A shrug and a smile. Iíll take an an attitude like that over winning any day of the week, thank you very much.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

John B
John B7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

heather g
heather g9 months ago

Continuing with the story of running .... I am in awe of African runners and in my mind I compare their non-specialised diets, health plans, cost of competing, etc

Mike R
Mike R9 months ago

Enjoying life an having fun is more important to me than winning. Thanks

Mary B
Mary B9 months ago

If you win others may or may not remember your name, but if you have a good time, YOU WILL have a series of happy good times that make up a good life. I'll take that. Much simpler.

Michele B
Michele B10 months ago

better words have never been spoken...very valuable lesson

Winn A
Winn Adams10 months ago

Absolutely it's more important to have FUN than win. :-)

Clare O
Clare O'Beara10 months ago

Agreed that winning is not everything, but it is pretty special.

Clare O
Clare O'Beara10 months ago

Keep a positive frame of mind, but remember that some kids are better at different sports. Some excel at rugby, others at ping pong, others at karate.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara10 months ago

Abusing a child (verbally, emotionally or physically) if they do not win is guaranteed to make them resent the trainer / parent or sport or both.