Health & Spirit

When Winning Isn't Everything, Fun, Trust and Cooperation Really Score

Marilynn Preston on

I opened an email the other day that whipped me right back to the '70s, when New Games were first introduced. Nowadays, New Games are sedentary and small-screen, with names like Dark Souls II and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. But back in the day of the Human Potential Movement, New Games had playful names like Trust Fall and Human Knot, all interactive, noncompetitive and based on a revolutionary concept when it came to sports and games:

Winning isn't everything.

Participation and fun are more important than performance and punishment.

Cooperation beats competition when it comes to encouraging people to accept each other, be more active, develop confidence and trust.

"I enjoy your articles," J.D.'s email begins, winning me over from the get-go. "A recent one made me think of an experience I had while preparing for a PE class at our small school's summer camp."

PE, just to remind you, is short for physical education. It's what schools used to teach kids before they lost their minds and cut out gym, recess and health classes. That taught us a lot about how to make kids fat, unfocused and less fit. But I digress.


"My co-teacher and I were trying to find group games which were played in Australia, and we were very pleased to find that pretty much all of the games that the Aboriginal peoples played were such that no one got 'out' and there was always a way to keep playing," J.D. explains.

"At first, our students were astonished, asking 'Who wins, then?'" and I said, 'Everyone wins, because everyone gets better.'"

J.D. admits it was a hard sell at first. Kids think they should want to win, because that's what adults brag about and reward.

"Some kids found that part challenging, but they got the point, and they all had fun, and those that usually got knocked out realized that they could keep playing and get better. And they did get better, even in the limited time we had to play.


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