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As parents, we always want to see our children excel in whatever they are doing whether it is in sports, school or other extracurricular activities; however, we also want to see our children learn and grow through their experiences. It’s inevitable that your child will lose a game in their sporting career. It’s important to help them learn how to overcome defeat and turn it into a positive. When your child experiences defeat or failure in a sport, take time with them to go over some of these points to help them learn from it.
Highlight Things That Went Well
When a child experiences losing a game for the first time it can be hard on them. After each loss, it’s important to highlight things that went well for them individually and as a team. Point out specific moments where they made a good decision on the field or displayed good sportsmanship and determination. By emphasizing the positive aspects of the game, you can show how they have improved from previous games and steer them away from feelings of self-doubt.
Discuss What Didn’t Go Well
The goal is to try and stay positive but it is still good to discuss the negatives of the game and what led the team to a defeat that day. (Although NEVER do this right after the game or even the same day!) In youth sports, it’s essential to help kids learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing can help you evaluate the errors. When discussing the parts of the game that didn’t go well, always follow up with how it could have been improved or what they can work on in practice next time.
When you have covered both the positives and negatives of the loss, end the discussion with your child about the major takeaways that they learned from the experience. This will reaffirm that they connected with the discussion and help you understand how they perceive the experience. Help them come up with ideas on how to resolve things that didn’t go well in the last game. Do they need to practice more? Be more encouraging? Work on communication?
In the end, what matters most is that your child is having fun, being safe and learning to play the sport. Lessons learned on the field carry over into everyday life beyond childhood. Not every child on the field becomes a professional athlete, but learning to deal with frustration and defeat is a skill that can help kids off the field well into their adult lives.