Saturday was the local livestock show at Newton High where 4-H’ers and FFA members showcased their animals.
But when the belt buckles and trophies were awarded, what if the second place youth walked to the stands and proclaimed that the winner wasn’t worthy?
What if his parents then announced, “Your ribbon is worth first place—you were the most accomplished showman out there.”
The livestock show committee might not be able to do much, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t stand up and say “He should respect his competitors, which I think he does. He has probably pronounced some words in the emotion of disappointment, but definitely he has to respect his opponents, of course.”
That’s actually a quote from the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge.
After earning silver in ice skating, Russian Yevgeny Plushenko told reporters how he deserved the gold.
Not only did he sulk publically, but his prime minister also weighed in with a statement: “(Your) silver is worth gold… [you] performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice.”
Too late to hope youth aren’t watching.
If you’ve ever played games with a 3-year-old, you’ve probably cheated to let them win a time or two.
However, if you let the child win every time, they begin to expect it even when they don’t try.
Kids will throw the Old Maid card back on the table, insisting they didn’t lose; they’ll shove the playing board and let the Hi-Ho Cherry-O’s go flying.
We’re reminded that a child must learn to be gracious in both winning and losing.
In 4-H, kids below 1st grade compete in the peewee lamb show, where every child earns a matching ribbon or trophy.
By first grade, they show lambs competitively, but there is a strong emphasis on building youth up with what they’ve done well and teaching them how to improve.
Ava Teasley learned by showing market lambs, but Saturday she entered the show with her hogs Jezebel and Esther.
It’s hard to single out just one kid because there are dozens from 4-H and FFA who will do the same with their hogs, heifers or steers.
However, Ava is a third grader in Mrs. Hargrove’s class at Heard-Mixon. Her nearest hog competitors are ninth graders, including Alcovy FFA member Dillon Parker who helped her learn about hogs this year.
At 9-years-old, we recognize Ava as being old enough to showcase her skills and emotionally handle winning or losing.
She wins a lot — in just the last month she earned the top score on our Livestock Judging team, won first place at County Project Achievement and took first in showmanship over all third and fourth grade breeding ewe showmen in Perry.
Monday, she proudly showed off a belt buckle so shiny it’s almost hard to read the inscription.
But Ava didn’t win it all.
In Perry, she placed fourth and fifth in weight classes for lambs, 12th in hog showmanship, and didn’t place in hog weight class.
Ava said when she doesn’t take top honors, it sometimes makes her feel “tired.” But she’ll also tell you that it’s OK, because her purpose was “to glorify God.”
Every family takes a different approach to preparing their child emotionally for competition.
For the Teasleys, it includes practicing their faith.
Before Ava enters a show ring, she and her dad take a quiet moment to pray amidst the chaos of animals straining at their halters and showmen getting last minute tips.
Todd Teasley also told me how the kids prepare each other.
“The kids play together and then they go in the ring and compete hard against each other. They help each other to do their best, and then they’re back playing as friends,” said Teasley.
While Ava may be just a third grader, I’m proud to know she’s already learned to be a good sportsman, and so I know I’ll never see any behavior like that at the Olympics from her.
Youth can take advantage of a local lamb camp in June by calling the 4-H office at (770) 784-2010 to start learning the fine points of lambs and being a good sport.
Terri Kimble is the 4-H Educator for Newton County 4-H.