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

By Marilynn Preston

September 17, 2019 5 min read

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.

"And I had the best time because I felt we made a bigger point that would benefit the children in life 'games.'"

Life games never end. We're constantly rediscovering that, when it comes to the human race, we're all running on the same track. So why exclude, why declare losers, when victory depends on mutual support and cooperation?

I'm happy to say New Games are still around, still being played for the sheer fun involved, still a great way to grow trust, release endorphins and bring family, friends and colleagues together.

Here's one of J.D.'s favorites. I call it Giggle Ball:

All the players start by lying down near each other on their backs. There are a few helpers standing nearby with beach balls. The helpers start the game by tossing a few beach balls into the group, and the players (on their backs) use any body part to keep the ball in the air.

"The helpers cover the corners and throw the balls back in when they are out of the players' reach," J.D. explains. "We're all on the same team. Keeping the ball in the air is the goal, and we count hits and try to keep the volley going as long as we can. "

Another game that rewards participation is a variation of dodgeball. If you get hit by a ball and knocked out, you're not out for good. You count five passes and get back in to play some more.

"That way, the kids stay involved in the game and the players who aren't as nimble get back in for more practice," J.D. explains. "Sometimes, the kids who aren't 'good' at some games find they can do this game pretty well! Success breeds success."

If you want to succeed at introducing some hilarious New Games into your life, there are dozens! Check out Dale LeFevre's website, www.inewgames.com. He's been teaching and writing about New Games and cooperative play since the movement began. He does workshops around the world, and he's very clear about its remarkable benefits.

The fat kids get to play. So do the klutzes. Coordination and motor skills are enhanced. Learning increases. Judgment disappears, and cooperation emerges. Hooray! Let's save the training in killer competition for business school.


"Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased." — J. Krishnamurti

Marilynn Preston is the author of "Energy Express," America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new Amazon best-seller, "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being," is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

Photo credit: finelightarts at Pixabay

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