Winners Never Quit

This book is by famed soccer player, Mia Hamm. It’s about her childhood when she spent her days playing soccer with her family. “Tap, tap, tap. Her toes kept the ball exactly where she wanted it. She’d kick the ball straight into the net. Goal! Everybody on her team would cheer.”

But then Mia has a bad day, and she doesn’t score any goals; there’s no cheering for her. Her older brother puts his arm arund her and says, “Better luck next time.” But Mia says “I quit,” and storms off the field.

The next day when she shows up to play, her brother won’t let her. “Sorry, Mia. Quitters can’t play on my team.” Mia is forced on the sidelines, just watching. The next day she is allowed to play again, and when she doesn’t make the goal “she feels tears in her eyes.” She hears whispering that she’s going to quit, but she realizes she loves playing soccer even more than she hates losing, and she keeps playing. “Maybe she’d score a goal, maybe she wouldn’t.”

Obviously the message here is that its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game. But its shown as a real life story, in a way kids can understand; Mia has intense emotions readers witness her learning how to deal with.

I feel like Mia wrote this book just for my daugter Lucy who is incredibly athletic at everything she tries– soccer, T-ball, basketball, air hockey (she didn’t inherit this from me.) At six years old, it is kind of rare to see a kid so aggressive, not wandering off the field or playing house in the goal. Lucy just keeps going after that ball. I obviously want to encourage her passion and skill. But she does cry when she doesn’t play well and says things like, “I’m terrible, I’m the worst.” And when she gets mad, she cheats.

I don’t understand her drive and skill because I wasn’t into sports as a kid. So I especially value this book, because it shows girls that competition is OK, which is something I wish I’d learned in sports and way beyond. I think it’s crucial to teach girls how to compete openly and ethically for victories that matter, so they don’t funnel those drives into backhanded ambitions too often focused on beauty, boys, and popularity, the venues through which girls have historically been allowed to win power.

Humans are competitive. Girls, too often aren’t taught how to deal with that, or even told that to engage in competition is bad. You’ve got to be especially wary where I live, in San Francisco, where many “progressive” schools believe every kid should be in the school play, on the team etc. I get this up to point, but learning to play fair, to want to win, that it feels good  when you do, are important lessons, key to helping girls grow into successful women.

At the end of the book, there are several photographs of Mia Hamm winning trophies, being carried by her teammates, and action shots of her playing soccer as a kid. I love all this imagery, illustrated and real, of a girl displaying her amazing skills and enjoying winning.

Thank you Mia Hamm!

Leave a Reply