Sometimes Trying is Winning

A few days ago, as I waited for my kids to dry off at their swim meet, I caught the last part of another group’s race.

All of the swimmers had finished, except for a young girl in the middle lane. She was struggling with her backstroke and was not quite halfway through her lap.

Most of the cheering had quieted and all eyes were on her.

But one voice could still be heard.

Alongside the pool, this young girl’s dad walked at the same pace she swam.

“You can do it! Keep going!” he shouted, smiling.

You could tell he was proud that even though she was having a hard time, she wasn’t giving up.

It didn’t matter that the other swimmers had already finished.

It didn’t matter that his child would come in last.

What mattered to this man was that his daughter knew he believed in her.

He wasn’t sitting back in the bleachers, disappointed or frustrated. He was by her side, cheering her on. And when she finished her lap and climbed out of the pool, he beamed. “Good job!” he said.

I got a lump in my throat watching.

And it reminded me that winning isn’t as important as we often make it out to be.

As parents, I think sometimes we get too caught up in wanting our kids to succeed, focusing more on competing than whether or not our kids are having fun or building character.

And maybe we forget that sometimes, trying is winning.

Even though I appreciate my kids’ strengths and weaknesses, and I know they’ll be good at some things and not others, I admit there have been times I’ve caught myself on the edge of my seat at a game wanting my child to score that winning goal.

Or make that basket.

Or hit that homerun. Most of the time, I think our desire to see our kids succeed simply comes from wanting the best for them. Whether it’s in school, in sports, or in life. And I’m not saying that winning is bad. It’s not. We shouldteach our kids to reach for goals, and try hard, and learn how to apply themselves.But I believe there’s a balance to be found, even though that’s sometimes hard to do.If our kids are giving their best effort, should it matter if they come in last?And what good is first place if they only push themselves for our approval? A loss every now and then just might build more character than an undefeated season.

I want to remember how that dad at the swim meet encouraged his daughter.

I want to remember his seemingly unconditional pride.

Because I want to give my kids that same kind of lift.

Whether they come in first place or last.

Whether they win or lose.

I want them to know I’m proud of them.



  1. In our house, we try to focus on “Do Your Best”. Your honest to goodness best – not just what you feel like doing today.That’s all each of us can ask of each other. It’s what we can do for each other – and God – each and every minute of each and every day.Just do your best!

  2. omigosh, reading this just made me bawl. The image of that dad cheering on that girl has still got me in tears. I’m not sure all the reasons why it’s hit me so hard. I’ll have to go analyze that. LOL Thank you for this. What a wonderful perspective.

  3. Amy

    What a beautiful post. Reading about that dad made me cry. I can so relate to sitting in the stands and *wanting* my child to make one great play – to know the joy that would bring him/her. I sometimes have to remind myself that they are also learning invaluable life lessons by not always winning. What a wonderful memory that girl will have knowing that her dad is her biggest cheerleader, win or lose.

  4. That was a tough post to get through. You are so right on every level!!!Way to go for that dad!! I hope his daughter felt proud of herself when she got out of the water.This is another great post for me to remember when my kids start competing.Thanks!!Has anyone ever offered you a book deal? Anything? You have a great talent.

  5. This is exactly why I love coming here – I always know I’ll end up feeling uplifted and inspired.

  6. What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing. I sure hope that dad knows how many people he has touched, just by you writing this post! Thanks so much!

  7. This is a great post. Trying IS winning! Kids who never try will never achieve anything. We have to teach them that there’s a whole world out there waiting for them!

  8. Thanks for the reminder. I too get caught up in wanting them to win instead of them doing “their” best.

  9. I got a lump in my throat just reading that! So so true…balance is everything. Not easy but so important!

  10. Fantastic Post – what a great observation and a wonderful Dad!Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Having been the kid where my best was never enough, I am particularly sensitive to this with my own kids. Usually! And when you think about it, that’s all that God wants from us – our best. Not someone else’s.

  12. i was on the swim team when i was little and to this day i can remember hearing my mother’s screeching cheers even when my head was UNDER the water! so that brought back some sweet memories.this was such a good post. we went too far the other way w/ our kids in sports because we desperately did NOT want them to feel like they had to win, etc. and now we are back, slowly introducing them into sports and teaching our boys thru it. i have one son i know will not enjoy being an athlete and for both i am learning and striving in every area to show them i am proud of them and love oldest seems to put “standards” on himself that defeat school so we are learning a ton about how to encourage and teach w/in that balance. great reminder this morning!

  13. reading this brought tears to my eyes. What a great post. Genny your writing is always so refreshing. Beautiful Fabulous is so lucky to have you!Kristen

  14. That is a lucky little girl. All kids (but girls especially I think) could use a dad like that.My kids are 2 and 5, so we’re just getting to the point where these things will be part of their lives. I love when they run a “race” and the first (always the oldest) says “I win!” and the other gets to the end and says “I win!” I especially love that the oldest NEVER says “No you didn’t, I did.” May they both always know that to run the race and finish well is winning.

  15. My kids are swimmers, too. And it takes SO MUCH EFFORT to compete in that sport. I don’t know about you, but if I even attempted to do the backstroke, I’d hit one lane line, then zig-zag across the late and hit the other! Our summer swim season is winding down, and this is always the time I know I’m gonna miss it til next year! BTW, don’t forget the Great Pop’rs Giveaway! The more you comment, the better chance you have of winning–Check it out!

  16. I think this was a really important post. I think parents need to be reminded about whats realy important. Or, should I say, I do.My kids are too little to compete, but I still want them to hit ‘milestones’ ahead of the pack, and when they don’t, I somehow feel bad. Now thats just not right.I love your message here. I love the simplicity of it. I love how easy it is to just stop, take a moment, and appreciate that God has us right where we are for a reason.And hopefully, one of these days, I am going to actually learn these lessons He keeps giving me!Thanks for the wonderful words and inspiring thoughts… you have helped me heart along today.Many blessings-Amanda

  17. Thanks for your help in trying to make Pop’rs more popular! And please drop by again soon to help Aunt Julie plan the rehearsal dinner for Big Bear and Little Red!

  18. Just reading about it made my eyes well up. What a great reminder. Being proud of my daughter, as long as she puts forth her effort is something I aspire to. :)

  19. Genny: Veggie Mom told me you’re a Swim Team Mom! And, of course, I can see with my own eyes that you are. :) As you know, swimming is such a fantastic sport–and we hoot and holler ’til the last kid finishes the race. I wrote a Swim Team post today, and thought you’d be interested. Kindred spirits, no? Our last big meet is Saturday, then we’re wrapping it up for the summer!

  20. That is a sweet dad. What a positive impact that must have had on his daughter. It is really great not only for her, but for everyone else to see. Hopefully other parents and kids noticed and were impacted by this.

  21. It’s so hard as parents to see our kids hurt or struggle, and how often do I find myself telling him how he could do something better instead of praising his best efforts. Thanks for the reminder.

  22. What a great post. About 30 years ago, I was that little girl in the pool. It was my first swim meet, and I was the last one to finish, and let me tell you, it took me a LONG time to finish! I remember how proud my mother was when I finally did make it. As a side note, she tried to bribe me with a new bike if I’d just swim the backstroke, but I wasn’t going to budge. That freestyle was just murder!!!I love the message in your post…that trying is winning. I think it is lost too often in today’s world.

  23. This brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful. You have such a nack with writing about the important things, Genny.

  24. Oh my… tears streaming down my face. This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  25. Excellent story. I’m a competitive person, but it makes me sick when parents push their kids too hard and convince them they aren’t doing something well enough. It’s great to hear stories like these instead.

  26. I love this post! Thanks for sharing the story of the dad cheering his daughter on even though the race for all practical purposes was over. It brought a lump to my thoat. That is the kind of parent I want to be.

  27. whew, now I have tears in my eyes….wow, i totally had a moment like that this week, will post about it later. thanks so much for sharing this….oh to be the biggest champions and fans of our children, truly the best job we could have!!! have a wonderful weekend!!!

  28. This moved me too!First, there are many parents that I have watched closely at my husband’s football and basketball games as he coaches their children. Oh if most of them were this way!!And, the parents of children that my son has been on teams with! The competiveness this past baseball season was horrible! They are 7 and 8 and I doubt seriously college scouts were there but, you wouldn’t know that by listening to some of the parents!It saddens me.I want to be like this father! It’s hard for me when it comes grades especially!! I did well in school and my son struggles! I’m working on learning that I have to accept the best he can do, not look for ‘the best’ grades!Thanks for sharing!

  29. Beautiful post. Beautiful experience. Thanks so much for sharing it. There’s a time for competitive spirit and a time for unconditional support. Wise people figure out when each is appropriate.Great post.

  30. What an inspiring and moving post … just what I needed to be reminded about it, especially when it comes to my three year old hurricane right now. I need to celebrate him and embrace him and not always wishing he knew how to play quietly and contently!I have a feeling this story will stay with me for a long time. Thanks for sharing it.

  31. I got a lump in my throat and teared up just reading about it. I love when father’s love their kids so well.Found your blog thru 4 Reluctant Entertainers and am enjoying reading! Bless you!

  32. Hey, Genny!I'm digging through your achives now! This article is so important; every mom and dad should read this. We were so glad that our son got on a baseball team this year that was full of good spirit. They all had great attitudes…so did the coach. My son stuck out a lot, but he also contributed some positive plays too. Either way, we were proud that he tried his hardest. A winner!!!!

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