Sportsmanship: lessons from pre-teens

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I have a confession: I am a reality TV junkie. I’m in recovery, and currently, I’m only really following two shows: America’s Next Top Model (no shame) and, what is easily the best show on TV, MasterChef Junior.

Now, if you haven’t seen MasterChef Junior, you’re probably rolling your eyes. A cooking show? Really? The best show on television? I mean, have you seen Scandal?

Yes, I have, and yes, really, MasterChef Junior comes out on top.

The premise of the show is this: 24 uber-talented pre-teen chefs compete each week to prove they are America’s best at-home kid cook and win $100,000. Through a series of challenges, they are eliminated one by one until only one chef remains.

In a line up flooded with drama-fueled housewives, shouting presidential candidates, and yet-another-doctor show, MasterChef Junior is a bright spot in TV land today. Besides being absolutely adorable, it’s an hour long schooling in sportsmanship each week. Here’s the top five lessons from this season so far:

Feedback from experts is valuable, and you should follow it. On the show, the home cooks are mentored by three professional chefs, including Gordon Ramsay. Throughout each challenge, the mentors give feedback to the contestants. Unlike similar shows with grown up contestants, the kids actually listen to the expert. They don’t make excuses, they don’t roll their eyes when Gordon leaves. They listen, they make changes, and they say thank you.

By helping each other, everyone rises. In this past episode, the contestants had to cook scallops. One contestant completely torched all of the scallops she had grabbed, which would have easily eliminated her from the competition. Instead of crying, she asked her fellow competitors if they had extra scallops she could have. In a mind-blowing twist, multiple contestants just gave her their extras. Not a single cook tried to make her fail or blamed her for her error: they had extras and they shared.

It’s okay to celebrate another person’s victory. For each challenge, just like the adult show, there is only one winner. Unlike the adult show, however, every other contestant celebrates the winner. Once they announce the winner of a challenge, the winner is enveloped in hugs from their fellow competitors, and undoubtedly, there is an interview clip of another contestant congratulating the winner and complimenting their dish.

Losing is tough, but it’s possible to do it with grace. While there’s a winner each week, there’s also a loser. When the loser is announced, they typically cry and then are surrounded by their friends. The other contestants exchange hugs, pat the eliminated cook’s back, and console them. Then, when they show the exit interview, the child usually talks about how proud they are of themselves and of their fellow contestants.

The real purpose isn’t to win. The real purpose is to have fun and make friends. Not only do these kids genuinely love, care for, and celebrate each other, they also totally love their craft. Even when they are frustrated, not a single one wants to quit. They care less about the grand prize and are more focused on living in the moment, seizing their opportunity, learning as much as they can, and getting to do what they love.

You can catch MasterChef Junior Fridays at 8/7C on Fox. Or, if you’re like me, you can catch up on Hulu.

One thought on “Sportsmanship: lessons from pre-teens

  1. Mamarazza on a Mission says:

    This. I love this show and all the support these kids give eachother. That’s how I live my life, boosting other because I want us all to win. Not everyone will get a prize but we can all have a winning personality and raise people up!


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