My daughter’s soccer squad struggled sweaty and fatigued off the field. They’d been outmatched, and they’d succumbed.
As the saying goes, you win some and you lose some. However, as my daughter’s soccer team experienced that season, you can lose a lot of games. (A parent on the sidelines once asked, “Can we at least tie?”) The losing run was so severe that a parent on the sidelines asked, “Can we please at least tie?”
Despite this, the team returned to the field a few days later for practise. My daughter was delighted to be there, slamming the car door shut and speeding away to join her pals. They plunged themselves into drills and scrimmages to forget about the loss and focus on the upcoming game. While I was disappointed to see her team lose, I could tell that she was still doing well.
One of the advantages of youth sports — despite the inevitable defeats — is that it provides a low-stakes environment in which to confront obstacles and deal with disappointment. It prepares children for future challenges and disappointments, which will very certainly be far larger.
Dr. Kate Lund, a psychologist and author of Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports, and Life, believes that learning to cope with defeat is vital because they won’t always win later in life. “It’s a valuable ability to learn to lose gracefully, not to blame others, and to accept responsibility for the loss.”
Losing is never fun, but there are some silver linings that can help you grow as a person.
Losing builds resilience — not just for sports, but for the rest of life
According to a 2019 study by a group of professors from Brigham Young University, high school students who participated in childhood athletics exhibited stronger levels of resilience than students who did not. Self-regulation, empathy, and social competence were also higher in students who had engaged in juvenile sports.
Much of that toughness comes from dealing with defeat: admitting defeat and going back on the field. “It teaches kids to pick themselves up and try again,” explains Lund.
Losing teaches them to reframe the story
Similarly, the capacity to reframe a situation — looking at something that has happened and seeing it from a different angle — is a talent that helps kids deal with disappointment in all facets of life, not just sports.
When my daughter’s soccer team lost, their coach told them to focus on the game’s positive aspects. She remarked that one player accomplished a difficult move, another broke away with the ball, and the goalkeeper pounced on the ball in a near save. Even if it didn’t add up to a win at the moment, the players were able to enjoy the tiny successes.
Losing can drive them to work harder
It’s a classic movie montage scene with uplifting music for a reason: The athlete focuses her emotions into her next session, pushing herself to work harder and come back stronger, faster, and better, motivated by the sting of a terrible loss. (Insert Rocky theme music here.)
Losing offers an opportunity for bonding — for the team and for the parent and child
Being a part of a team — something bigger than oneself — requires players to deal with loss as a group. It’s an opportunity for them to learn to regroup as a team, figure out what worked and what didn’t, and figure out how to better together, according to Lund.
It can also be a chance for a child to form a bond with his or her parent. Author and educator Jessica Lahey reminds us in her book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed that youth sports affords parents the gift of time with their children. Supporting the child after a loss is part of that period. “The perfect sports parents would be the ones you never hear from the sidelines,” she quotes one Olympic medallist. They should be there after the game to offer assistance when tragic events occur… After a heartbreak, the ideal sports parent is there to listen and help the child discover the positive in the situation.”
Losing helps develop empathy
Kids gain a deeper understanding and connection with the underdog after experiencing the sorrow of defeat. They know how it feels to be the loser and, as a result, they know how they want to be treated.
And when they do win — my daughter’s team started the season by finishing second in a competition a few months later — the victory is all the sweeter.
This article was first published on MOJO, and it has been reposted with their permission.
- Why is it important for kids to lose?
Learning new skills boosts a child’s confidence and self-esteem, and they begin to take pride in their accomplishments. When children lose, they learn to identify with other people who have also lost.
- How do I teach my child to lose?
Teaching children to lose gracefully so they can lose with…
Play “low stakes” games. …
Acknowledge disappointment from losing. …
Practice good sportsmanship. …
Be a role model for your child. …
Talk about luck and chance. …
Use a growth mindset and focus on effort. …
Turn losing into an opportunity to reflect and learn.
- Why losing is a good thing?
Losing provides you motivation and a sense of purpose. It motivates you to improve and do what you previously couldn’t. Losing also forces you to develop self-evaluation skills. Looking in the mirror and repairing what doesn’t work is the only way to make adjustments and improve.
- Why is winning and losing important?
Children don’t need to win all of the time since they will never know what it’s like to lose. This deprives a youngster of important life lessons, empathy skills, and development. Winning and losing teach a youngster a variety of things that are crucial to their growth and development.