We’ve all heard complaints about not keeping score in youth sports. You know, everyone getting a trophy.

Winning and losing is critical to the human experience because it happens in all aspects of life. At work, you’re judged against your own accomplishments and the accomplishments of others. At school, you’re judged against your ability to answer a certain percentage of the questions properly. In sports, you’re judged by any number of statistics that are designed to measure your performance against others. In relationships, some people will like you and some will not, no matter what you do.

I’ve had friends argue to me that they don’t want kids to feel bad about losing. They don’t want them to think that winning is everything, or the only thing. They don’t want kids to be distracted with who’s winning or losing. They want everyone to go home feeling good, so they’ll give out trophies to everyone who participates. They won’t keep score so the kids don’t know who won (even though the kids are all keeping score).

Both winning and losing are great and extremely important in the development of an adult.

Winning is great because it’s important to know the taste of victory. Life is full of little victories, and each one tastes as good as the last. Learning to read is a victory. So is winning a 100 yard dash, where there is only one winner. Winning is usually the result of hard work and dedication. Sure, sometimes we win by luck or circumstance. But those times are few and far between.

In winning, you also learn how to win. When children win, it’s an opportunity to teach them how to be gracious in victory. It’s a time to emphasize and focus upon what worked and work harder on why you may have almost lost. Winning creates a bar to reach. It’s a standard that gives purpose to the game.

Sometimes winning teaches us about team play. When teams win, it’s because everything was working well and the role players all came through. When you score well on an exam, it’s an affirmation of all of the hard work and studying you put in before the test.

But losing is as important, if not more so. When you lose, you get the taste of what losing is. It teaches you why you’re working hard. It motivates you to become better. And sometimes, it motivates you to quit trying one thing and to work on something else instead.

Sometimes kids decide they’re going to be a professional football player. But not every kid can be one. If a kid gets cut from the football team every time he tries, it will teach him to re-evaluate his talents and goals and to spend time pursuing something that is more achievable. It’s important to pursue our dreams, but equally important is realizing when they’re simply out of reach.

Losing teaches you where the deficiencies are. It gives you a known list of areas in which to improve. We learn from our mistakes. When you fail, you start to understand your limitations – but also your strengths. You get a chance to retool and come back better, stronger and more prepared.

There will always be someone better than you and someone not as good. There will always be someone who may not be as gifted or skilled as you who accomplished something you’re setting out to accomplish.

Winning and losing are two of the most important building blocks to becoming a self-sustaining and productive adult. Fair play and equality are only applicable when making sure there is a set of rules by which all teams and players will follow. It’s how you prepare and practice, within those rules, and it’s knowing you did all you could that teaches true, long-lasting self-esteem.