Whether you’re a footballr mom, gym mom or tennis dad, when you’re standing on the sidelines cheering for your kid, you are almost certainly rooting for them to win the game, right?
It’s natural to want to see your kids elated from victory. Plus, you know you’re probably going to have a hard time bringing them around after the game if they’ve lost.
Think for a moment, however.
Although losing a game is going to be harder for your kid in the short term, which is the better result in the long term: winning or losing?
Experienced sports coaches will tell you that the answer is almost certainly losing. Winning can, of course, motivate your child to continue playing and inspire confidence. But some of the greatest life lessons come from losing. Here’s how:
1. Losing teaches kids that life isn’t always easy
When a kids lose in a game, you can bet that wasn’t their plan. It may even come as a big shock. This, however, is a teachable moment.
In many ways, a sports game mimics life as a whole. Kids are chasing a goal, following a plan, operating under a set of rules. They’ll be reliant on other people for their success, too, either teammates or coaches. Isn’t this just like the adult workplace?
And whether it be a sports game or a project at work, you know that things don’t always go according to plan.
Kids need to know that life is full of setbacks. However hard you may work, and however much you plan, things won’t always work out. It’s the skill of dusting yourself off, picking yourself up and carrying on towards your goals, that is the important lesson here.
If you always shelter your kids from loss, you are doing them no favors. What better way for kids to learn that life doesn’t always go as planned than through sports?
2. Losing teaches kids to learn from mistakes
Generally speaking, kids will quickly realize that a mistake or two may be the reason for a less than desirable outcome. They’ll probably be feeling angry with themselves. You’ll hear them say ‘My serve was really bad today’, or ‘I should have hit that ball at a better angle’.
Step in there and teach them that losing helps a person know what to work on.
Losing isn’t failure; it’s a step on the path to success. Help them work through by asking the question ‘How are you going to use this experience to improve your game for next time?’
Finding and creating a positive learning experience from a negative event is a great lesson to take them into adulthood.
3. Losing teaches kids to be compassionate
In team sports especially, kids are going to learn that sometimes someone else’s mistake may impact their own success.
Take a straightforward shot on a goal that is missed, for example. After this kind of thing happens, your child will quickly realize that there are two ways to act. Either the mistaken player is given a hard time, where arguments and fighting will prevail; or, the player is patiently supported by his or her teammates to overcome his or her own disappointment.
In which scenario is the team more likely to win their next game? The second, for sure!
In team sports, compassion for others is essential. Getting involved in a team sport will ensure your children quickly learn empathy, patience and compassion for others, especially in disappointing moments.
4. Losing teaches kids to develop composure
Losing a game is going to stir some big emotions in kids, among them: anger, disappointment, worry about letting others down.
All these emotions are normal and natural, of course. What kids need to learn is that they need to keep these feelings in perspective and to not let them lead to bad behavior, such as violent outbursts or tantrums. After all, as future adults, they’re going to need to be able to handle disappointment in a mature and dignified way.
Junior sports give kids a safe space with lots of opportunities to learn how to face disappointment. They can learn that channeling anger and disappointment into energy and determination is actually really useful and positive. On the flip side, they’ll learn that losing composure can get them penalized. What a great lesson for adulthood!
5. Losing teaches kids to take calculated risks
An athlete that never ever takes any risks rarely wins. You can’t win by only playing defensively.
Through sport, kids can learn that if they want to succeed, they’re going to need to push forward into opposition territory or take risky shots occasionally.
It’s the same with life, playing it safe only gets us so far. If you want to achieve your goals, you need to take some calculated risks! Understanding that there is a risk of failure but trying anyway is a great lesson taught through sports.
What You Can Do to Help Your Kids
Sports give parents so many great opportunities to help their kids learn life lessons. If your children are already involved in sports, ensure they take what they can from losing matches, and help them to reframe their experiences positively.
Remember that losing is an essential step along the road to winning.
If your kids aren’t playing any sport at the moment, why not encourage them to try a few sports out like tennis or ice skating?
Their health will benefit enormously as regular exercise can help your children stay healthy, achieve their growth milestones, and develop active lifestyles. More importantly, the valuable life lessons presented here can help them persevere in school life, as well as help them to prepare for the challenges of adulthood.
Possessing more than two decades of experience in the leisure and hospitality industry, Tony Kouris joined Zayed Sports City as General Manager in January 2018. With extensive career experience, a value on interpersonal relationships, and strong negotiating experience, he is positioned to support Zayed Sports City’s strategic growth and continue to innovate the site as an internationally recognized sport and entertainment destination.