Nice Doesn’t Win Games!

While shopping this week, I found a shirt prominently displayed in a bustling children’s section. Emblazoned across the front:

Nice doesn’t win games.


I stopped in my tracks and read it over and over and over again. Was something lost in translation? Finding nothing on the reverse and no additional words that would settle the pit beginning to beat in my stomach, I walked on. With my small people, I collected the necessities reminding them to remember their niceties. Irony moving through and around us as swiftly as their feet and my cart.

A week later, I can not forget that shirt. What we put out in the world sinks in. It sticks around.

For me , it’s more than simply attaching a negative connotation to an overused, but, important word. “Nice.” In the context of the, “Play hard and play to WIN!” mentality advertised on the shirt, the word was sticky sweet and unattractive. Mentally substituting nice with one of its more gentile synonyms, kind, the shirt loomed darker losing any whiff of the whimsy it already struggled to portray.

We are the problems we see in the world. It’s never, “just a shirt”. It’s who we are and what we believe and we paste it across our chests or, on the bumpers of our cars and we forget that the world is watching. Our children are watching.

Nice doesn’t win games, but, it wins over hearts. It wins you friends and, kindness feeds our collective soul. Nice doesn’t win games, but, games are only worth playing if you are learning how to exist in the framework of a team. Sacrificing personal glory for the good of your group; with the best interest of your team guiding your choices and decisions. Nice doesn’t win games, but, winning isn’t important. Winning is “nice”, but, it’s not why we play. We play because we love the game. We play to inspire greatness in ourselves and others. We play to become a part of making and participating in community . We don’t just play to win. Do we?

Nice doesn’t win games, but, it will win you respect. It will win you the ears of trusted companions. Nice doesn’t win games, but, every day, the kindness of strangers changes lives, opens doors and restores hope.

Nice may not win games on the field, but, it keeps us level and balanced on the playing field of life. And, in the end, the only adage that remains true is,

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

So, play nice.




  1. Perfectly said. I shudder sometimes at the words and phrases thrown around so casually without regard to who might read them or, frankly, what they even mean. Then I wonder if I’m just getting old and out of touch. But I’m *pretty* sure that “nice” still means nice, and it’s still something we want our children to embody. Hopefully that never gets old.

  2. I agree completely. Playing a game with a sense of fairness, and yes, compassion, should always be a value we impart to our children, and it should be something children can emulate from watching professional sports. I totally agree with the idea that it is never just a shirt, or a commercial. Today I was watching a commercial where a woman at an art museum was texting and seeing all her messages reflected in the art. Eeeeuw! You mean we can’t separate ourselves enough from our phones to enjoy beautiful art, art that someone painstakingly and soulfully created? Yes, folks, this is what it has come to.

  3. I agree totally. I think there’s way too much pressure in our culture to win by any means. Just watch any reality tv show where any participant will tell you, “I didn’t come here to make friends, I came here to win.”
    I’ll tell my kids the opposite. Sometimes you’ll win, more often you’ll lose. But you can always win friends.

  4. Totally read the last line in the classic ‘Toy Story’ voice of Tom Hanks as Woody. Sorry, just had to share.

  5. I’d have to agree. My husband plays hockey and if he tried to score on the opposing teams’ goalie and the goalie blocked it, he would always skate over to him after and tap him on the helmet with his hockey stick to say “good save”… made me melt. All of his friends would raz him about being a softie….but I find it very sexy and sweet!!!!

  6. I played sports, and I get the determined attitude to win. But you can’t win unless the teammates respect one another and think outside of themselves. A team with a rude & selfish ahole on it is not a winner.

  7. Amen! My kids are athletes, sports or the thought of being able to play them propels them in pretty much every other aspect of life. My fear is that they’ll grow up to be those rude, dumb jocks that I remember from high school. As parents we do our best to teach “nice” and their hockey program pretty much demands it. Thanks for writing this:)

  8. Katie@SomewhatSaneMom says:

    Yes. So true.
    At the end of the day, who wants to be friends with the person who has all of the trophies but was a big ass in order to get there. Even in professional sports, the players (or at least the ones that I want my kids to look up), congratulate each other, shake hands, or hug. That’s really the way to be a successful athlete.

  9. It’s always important to be a good sport. Period. It kills me to see some parents screaming at their kids when they don’t win. I’m also not the fan of everyone getting a trophy for participating either. It’s a fine line of teaching our kids that in life, there are winners and losers. However, it’s respecting those that really tried hard and played a good game. Respect.

  10. In a world of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, nice not only wins games, it wins life.

  11. You nailed it, Bethany.
    I’ve been disturbed many times by words I’ve seen emblazoned across people’s chests or the bumpers of their cars.
    Civility counts. So does being nice. Thanks for the eloquent reminder.

  12. Couldn’t agree more. When Ashlyn started high school I was so worried about her being bullied because of her special needs but honestly, she is so, so nice to every student at school that I think they can’t possibly be mean to her. Last weekend the soccer team that she helps with let her play in their scrimmage, both teams got together and made sure she scored once on each net. Nice wins.

  13. I totally agree with this. Winning isn’t everything and to be honest? “Nice” transcends all barriers.

  14. I hate that shirt. My 6-year-old son is extremely literal and impressionable. If he sees or hears something he knows it to be true. How could that possibly be on a shirt if it wasn’t an absolute truth? Nothing I could ever say would dissuade him from believing that nice doesn’t win games. It seems like such a minor thing, what some random shirt says. But is it? It’s one of a million messages out there for our children to navigate through and choose from. Why would anyone put that out there? Surely whoever came up with the idea doesn’t *really* believe it. We’ve all seen how much people can come together and care about each other in the face of catastrophe. We all root for the underdog, rejoice when the jerk doesn’t get the girl, and feel relief when the bunny boiler gets what’s coming to her. So why don’t we just go around saying that nice is good?

  15. Jennifer says:

    I found this site, trying to find a store that has that shirt in stock. My daughter plays basketball, and there’s not a single kid on that court that is going to pussyfoot around another when they’re trying to get the ball. Nice works for everything else…on the field or the court, not so much. It’s called being competitive…and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Jeez people. Kids need a backbone, and they need to learn that nice is not always going to work. What planet are you people from anyway?


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