ISY Elementary Blog
The Important Difference Between Winning and Success
Mike Simpson, Elementary School Principal
November 25, 2020

I came into teaching through coaching sport and this background still shapes the development of my philosophies around teaching and learning. There are many similarities between education and sport but for now I want to point out one important difference. This difference dawned on me in the following quote from Matthew Syed’s book, Bounce:

Sport is, to use the jargon of economics, a zero-sum game: if I win, you, by definition, lose.

To modify an example that Syed uses to explain what this means, suppose that I am a top sprinter and I adopt an innovative practice that reduces my time by 10 per cent. When I run my next race, I will beat most of my competitors. This is good for me but bad for them. My relative position has improved, but at their expense. The net ‘benefit’ across the group is zero.

Now suppose I am a sprinter and all of my competitors join me in adopting an innovative training practice that reduces all of our times by 10 percent. Our relative positions in the next race will be precisely the same as they ever were. The net benefit, once again, is zero.

Learning is not a zero-sum game. Learning is a game in which everyone can succeed without needing to declare a winner. According to legendary basketball coach (and teacher), John Wooden, there is an important difference between winning and succeeding. Wooden was regarded as one of the greatest coaches, of any sport, ever. His teams won a lot but he did not talk in terms of winning and losing. He spoke only of success. 

Wooden developed his own definition of success as a peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable. He felt that he needed to develop his own definition to make him a better teacher and coach and to give his students something to aspire to other than a grade or a score.

Wooden developed his definition of success from beliefs that were grounded in the teachings of his parents and his own experience. I have reproduced these beliefs in Wooden’s own words from his excellent TED Talk, The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding with some suggestions as to how they can be explained to our children:

  • Never try to be better than someone else. Always learn from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s under your control. If you get too engrossed and involved and concerned in regard to the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you have control.

Learn from others. And then do your best.

  • If you make the effort to do the best of which you’re capable, trying to improve the situation that exists for you, I think that’s success, and I don’t think others can judge that.

Your best is always enough.

  • I believe that we must believe, truly believe. Not just give it word service, believe that things will work out as they should, providing we do what we should. I think our tendency is to hope things will turn out the way we want them too much of the time, but we don’t do the things that are necessary to make those things become reality.

You must do your best to succeed.

  • You never heard me mention winning. Never mention winning. My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game, and you can win when you’re outscored. I’ve felt that way on certain occasions, at various times. And I just wanted them to be able to hold their head up after a game. I used to say that when a game is over, and you see somebody that didn’t know the outcome, I hope they couldn’t tell by your actions whether you outscored an opponent or the opponent outscored you.

Your success can only be measured against your best.

I believe that developing Wooden’s peace of mind in our children now is a key to them living fulfilled and meaningful lives in the future. This peace of mind will help them learn but, more importantly, it will allow them to act when others fixated on winning and losing might not. 

Syed, Matthew. Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success. Perennial, 2011.

Join us on Saturday, December 12th for the 3rd annual UWS-ISY Sports-A-Thon!  This fun active event raises funds for the UWS-ISY Wan Kaung School partnership, allows children in Northern Myanmar to attend school with appropriate supplies and resources.  If you are interested in learning more about this amazing program, check out the ISY website.

This year’s event will be held virtually on Saturday, December 12 from 9:00-11:00 AM.

How can you participate?

  1. Set a personal challenge or two.  Gather sponsors that will donate when you complete your challenge.  Join a zoom meeting on December 12th to complete your challenge. Finally, donate for completing your challenge.


  1. Video your family member(s) completing their physical challenge prior to December 12th, submit the video to be included in the day’s celebration and make a donation!

All donations will be collected through the ISY School Spirit Store.  Simply login to your Powerschool account, click on School Spirit Store and make your contribution.

We look forward to your participation!


Talking with your Child about Your Teacher Conference

We had a lovely turn out for parent-teacher conferences.  Thank you for taking the time to connect with your child’s teachers in this powerful way.  Now that you have this information, you might wonder how to talk with your child about it.

  • Talk with your child about what you learned at the conference.  Often students worry or are just curious.  Include them by sharing what you learned.

  • Start with sharing the strengths the teacher discussed and highlight the positives.

  • Be direct about problems or concerns.  Often your child knows areas they struggle with.  Ask them how they think the issues might be addressed.  Often parents feel punishment will solve a problem but often a team approach better engages your child and produces better results.

  • Share the plan for moving forward.  Students need to understand that steps are being taken to address the concerns or issues.  These plans require everyone’s participation to be successful.

If you have any questions or concerns, I am available to support your family.  I can be reached at

Warmly, Ms. Patty
Virtual Recess is still running from 1:00-1:30 PM.  Students should use the All Grade Specialist Link to join on their assigned day.  All activities will be student driven but will include fun and games.

Grades 4 & 5: Tuesday
Grade 3: Wednesday
Grade 2: Thursday
Grade 1: Friday


It is a tradition at ISY to honor and express gratitude for our local staff during the holiday season.
We do this through a program commonly called December Baskets.  Each family is asked but not required to make a small donation to help purchase items to complete the basket.
This year, families wishing to contribute, are asked to make a monetary donation through the ISY Online Ordering System, which can be found on your Powerschool account or drop a item such as rice, shampoo, soap, oil or sugar at the school front steps.
Thank you for your support in celebrating the wonderful people that help make ISY a great place to learn!


Did you know that Mr. Zar Li, our head security officer, was a former Mr. Myanmar! He is very fit and knows 100s of different exercises to stay fit.

Mr. Zar Li has kindly offered to run 15 minute work outs for our students that will start at 8:10am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These work outs will start next Monday. The Zoom link for the workouts will be on the Friday Family Report email that you receive from your child(ren)’s teacher. All ages are welcome and parents are welcome to join in too.

The workouts will finish at 8:25am to give students time to get a drink and get organized before joining their classes at 8:30am.

These workouts do not replace regular P.E. classese during the school day. 

Physical Activity Ideas for ES Students To Do At Home from Mr. Wyatt

Here is a link to some great ideas to keep our students active at home. They are fun and require little or no equipment or preparation.

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