WRITTEN FOR TWIRL, BINAH MAGAZINE'S TEEN SUBSECTION
Cheaters are the worst kinds of people. So are sore losers. Cheaters and sore losers. Whether you are sleep away camp or day camp, you know exactly who I mean. Those girls that need to cheat to win every game. Those girls who are the biggest sore losers if they don't. I mean what is their pro-o-o-blem? So what if they are out at jumprope? So what if they are out at machayanim—or dodgeball, or basketball, or whatever? So what?
But cheaters are the worst, right? Which is why I am so glad that I was never a cheater in camp. Never. Not even at school. The one time I let a girl cheat off my test in elementary school still makes me feel guilty until today. So I was definitely not a cheater. Not at tests, not at sport, not at color war or field day or any day at all.
Which doesn't make me proud at all that I was a sore loser.
But I was. The biggest the sore loser you have ever seen.
So this is what happened.
I'm in camp, Numero Uno (which is Spanish for Number One, in case you didn't know), and the best in sports. Every year, everyone knows that Mindy is the best in sports. I am picked first for everything and everyone knows that whichever team I am on, wins. Baseball, swimming, machanayim, running races. You name it; I win it.
I am a big deal in camp. Even as a camper. The counselors treat me with respect, the campers want to be my friends. Because I know how to win.
And winning to me is important.
Which is why I am an awful sore loser.
I argue that the ball did not hit me; it hit my skirt. I argue that the ball hit my ears and that means Whatshername should be docked from the game for aiming for my head which is so illegal. I argue with the umpire that she's favoring the other team, and I argue with my teammates what is the best strategy to win (mine) even when they have different ideas.
And if I lose (gasp!), I kick that ball or tree and stomp away angrily, muttering about all the cheaters in the world.
Because I am NOT a cheater. Sore loser, yes. Cheater, NO.
It's amazing I had any friends in those days. Which I did. Some. When I wasn't acting like a sore loser.
But this is not about me being a sore loser (even though it is), but about relationships (for sure!). Because lots of you reading this know exactly what I mean. Either because you recognize yourself in me, or because your friend acts like that, or your camper acts like that, or your younger/older sister acts like that and it is driving you cra-a-azy. And you want to know what you can do about it.
I assume if you have been reading my column in Twirl for the past year, you have been reading a lot about me. Like what a brat I was when I was a kid. Or like I was a lousy sister, torturing my little sister to death. Or, that I was a pretty stubborn kid all my life (and then a stubborn adult). And you are wondering why Twirl would have such a lousy person writing a column for teens when it is obvious to anyone that I am a TERRIBLE INFLUENCE as a result of my horrible, horrible personality and I should be imprisoned until I promise to be good and BEHAVE myself.
So here is the good news. I grew up!!!
Yes, all of my dear readers. There is hope for all of you that are teenagers. Impossible teenagers. Grouchy daughters. Selfish sisters. Bratty human beings. Because if I could do it, anyone can. (And just like you, who have some not-such-desirable traits, I was still a pretty good person anyway. Which is possible, you know. But of course you know, because you know you are a pretty good person, too. Even when you are acting not-so-good. Right? Right!)
So back to me being a sore loser, another of my endearing qualities.
I don't know why I was a sore loser. I don't know why winning was so important to me. I think it was simply that like anything in my life, I loved to push myself to the end, using up all my energy to accomplish. Whether it was machanayim when I was a kid or being a mother or therapist as an adult. And as a kid, I didn't know how to push myself to be the best I could be without pushing other people out of my way, the way I know how to do that now as an adult.
When I look back at that time, I am not proud of myself. Because I hurt other people. Kids who were not good at sports probably hated being on my team. And my teammates probably liked winning but didn't enjoy playing with someone who didn't let them shine on the field, even just a little. Or, who yelled at them when they made a mistake. Or, who rolled her eyes when they fumbled a ball. It's not fun playing like that. And it also hurts. And I don't know where my counselors were. Or the head counselor. Or anybody that should have said, “Mindy, you need to be nice when you play, because if you are not, then you are not playing even if we lose that VERY IMPORTANT kickball game against that VERY SCARY camp that is coming to play against our camp.
But let's talk about both sides: what to do if someone in your life is a sore loser, and if how to change if you are the one that is a sore loser.
If you are the sore loser, then maybe you don't understand about good sportsmanship (or sportswomanship). Which is about the rules and expectations of a game. Which is not only about winning a game, but about winning or losing graciously.
People who win graciously say things to the other team “You played a good game. That was fun. Thanks for joining us.” Stuff like that. People who win say things to their own teammates like, “You guys were great! I could not have done it alone. I can't wait to play with you again.”
People who win graciously don't take all the credit for a team sport. They don't reprimand the players who did not play that well. Stuff like that.
People who lose graciously say the same stuff, believe it or not! Thanking the other team, thanking their own team, smiling, and making everyone feel good even if they lost. And then, if it's a really competitive game and constructive criticism is necessary, it needs to be said by the right person (maybe the counselor and not you!) at the right time, with the right words.
Now how about if you are a sister or friend or counselor to a sore loser? What can you do about it?
First of all, ignore the sore loser's temper tantrums on the field. Don't get all nervous that she is upset about something or another. Brush it off and tell her stuff like, “Lighten up. It's just a game.” Don't feed the fire by saying things like, “I know, that Chany is really a lousy player and I don't either understand why she was picked.”
Model for her good sportsmanship. When you play, be nice to others. Compliment. Be a gracious winner or loser. Let her see what that can look like. Praise her, and others, not for the win, but for good teamwork. In general, praise for things other than the actual winning of the game that highlights team work and good middos. Like, “It was great that you passed the ball to Shani so she could score. I liked the way you handled it when Yehudis was out and smiled at her when she returned to home plate.”
If you are in a position to do so, it would be great if you could foster a variety of activities and not focus only on the ones that are being excelled at. Like encourage your friend to choose an activity at camp that is not one she is naturally good at, like arts and crafts, and have fun together trying out new things. Convince her to join a choir even if her voice is not one picked for solos.
If you want to play a little psychology, you can always dig a little deeper and try to understand why your friend, camper, or sister acts like a sore loser and using empathy, have a talk with her about her behavior and how it is affecting her middos and friendships with others. Explain how a short term win on the field is actually causing long term losses in life.
The end of my story is that I play Scrabble in the bungalow colony almost every day. And I play to win. But I don't. And we have such fun anyway!
Check out my book THERAPY SHMERAPY, available in bookstores and through Amazon
Read current articles in my bi-weekly column THERAPY: A SNEAK PEEK INSIDE in Binah Magazine, available on newsstands every Monday.