02 03 Pinewood Derby Stories and Photos from Maximum Velocity 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

A Winning Pinewood Derby Philosophy

Not long ago I had a discussion with a dad about an upcoming pinewood derby
race. He asked if I sold complete cars. I responded that I didn't offer
finished cars. I then went on to ask the following question: 'Since the
pinewood derby is intended to be a child/parent project, wouldn't buying a
completed car go against the basic 'spirit' of the event? The dad responded
something like, "Me and my son have a 'win at all cost' philosophy. So we
do whatever is necessary to win." I was a bit disturbed by the comment, and
tried to explain to the dad why I held a different philosophy. But I soon
realized that there was little room for agreement.

What is my philosophy? Why did I react to the dad's comment? I hope to make
this clear in the article today, and in so doing I hope that I leave you
with some food for thought. Your philosophy certainly does not need to
match my philosophy; however, we all need to make sure that we understand
our basic belief in the area of competition and ensure that it is the
philosophy that we want to impart to our children.


When considering life's events, I believe that a person should strive to do
their very best. In sports, this means giving a 100 percent physical
effort. In educational pursuits this means studying to achieve mastery of a
subject. In fact, I believe if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing
well. From simple chores to running a business, I strive to do my best.

A 'Do Your Best' philosophy has at it's core the concept of integrity.
Thus, the athlete gives 100 percent and follows the rules of the sport; the
student achieves mastery without cheating; the business-person offers a
quality product for a fair price.

Furthermore, there is another aspect to a 'Do Your Best' philosophy which is
not so black and white. That is the idea of fair play or sportsmanship.
One can abide by the rules and yet be ethically delinquent by demonstrating
non-sportsmanlike conduct. The athlete may badger the competition with
cruel words, use steroids or other questionable means to enhance
performance. The student may use fragments of another person's work (easy to
do today with the Internet), or study a copy of last year's test from an
upperclassman. The business may make questionable product claims or slam
their competition. These activities and others go against the grain of a
'Do Your Best' philosophy.

Although it is not specifically stated in all cases, the 'Do Your Best'
philosophy is clearly in harmony with the philosophy of the major
organizations that sponsor pinewood derby races:

Awana Mission Statement (paraphrased) - "... challenge and train the youth
of the world through Bible-based, Christ-centered programs ..."

BSA Mission Statement - "... to prepare young people to make ethical choices
..." (in fact, the Cub Scout motto is "Do your best.")

Royal Ambassadors' Motto - "Ambassadors for Christ"

Royal Rangers' Aim and Goals - "... to instruct, challenge and inspire our
boys in the areas of Bible doctrine, Christian service, moral conduct ..."

YMCA Mission Statement - " ... to put Christian principles into practice

How does a 'Do Your Best' philosophy apply to pinewood derby racing? I
believe that in the pinewood derby the child-parent team should strive to do
their best. This means that they should have fun building the fastest car
possible within the guidelines of the local rules, and within the boundaries
of good sportsmanship.

To further clarify the 'Do Your Best' philosophy, let's take a look at
another philosophy.


The person who follows a 'Win At All Cost' philosophy will do whatever is
necessary to win, even if it means stepping into questionable, even
unethical behavior. No one doubts that the ethical boundary was crossed
when figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted. So certainly if a pinewood
derby participant 'accidentally/on-purpose' damaged a competitor's car, the
bounds of ethics would be crossed. A parent-judge that favored their child's
car would also be viewed as crossing the ethical boundary.

But how about the case where a parent has a craftsman friend build the car
while the child is home playing. How about purchasing a pre-built car on
eBay? Where is the ethical line crossed?


Clearly the purpose of the pinewood derby is as both a craft-learning
experience and a competition for the child. As such, the parent/child team
should strive to do their best in crafting the car, and in making it go
fast. To balance all of these aspects of the project can be a bit of
a challenge. To help you achieve a balance, I suggest the following

1. The parent should make sure that the child is involved to the greatest
extent possible in all aspects of the project, while taking into account
the child's age and capabilities. Here are some ideas for making sure that
the child stays involved.

a. Help the child select a design that they can build, without the parent
having to do the majority of the work.

b. Allow your child to do as much as they physically and safely can
accomplish. This will tend to slow things down (an excellent exercise in
patience for the parent!).

c. Show your child the proper use of tools.

d. Help your child work through the required steps (no shortcuts) and help
them understand why the steps are important.

e. Add strength and/or finesse for those steps that the child cannot do
(initial saw cuts, drilling straight, inserting axles, etc).

2. If you choose to use more sophisticated tools, supplies, techniques,
keep your child engaged at each step. Help them to understand the purpose
for each tool or technique, and let them use the tool whenever possible. If
you have access to a machine such as a drill press or lathe, explain why the
machine is being used, show your child how to use the machine, and let your
child run the machine (assuming that they are at an age where they can do so

3. Give your child the pinewood derby building experience. Buying an
"almost guaranteed district championship car" is very easy these days, but
it cheats both your child and yourself out of the whole experience.


What is your philosophy? Do you hold to a 'Do Your Best' philosophy, a
'Win At All Cost' philosophy, or maybe you haven't thought about it. If not,
I encourage you to consider this question and then ensure that you are
imparting to your child a philosophy that will serve them well as they grow
and mature.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 2, Issue 5

To subscribe to this free e-newsletter, please visit:

(C)2011, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.
35 36 37 38