Losing is part of sports. You simply can’t win every time you play, so an athlete needs to learn how to maintain a positive attitude while dealing with loss. This is not always easy, because if you’re competitive, losing hurts. Seasoned athletes may want to scream or cry after a loss, some even do, but in the end, most learn to lose gracefully.
When you win or lose with grace, you demonstrate awareness that your actions, attitude, and behavior affect everyone. This is known as good sportsmanship. It’s not always easy to have a good attitude if you lose, when the objective of sports is to win. So how do you make sure your child deals with loss in a respectful way? It doesn’t happen overnight, but parents and coaches can help teach young athletes to handle disappointment.
Focus On Fun
When your child first starts to participate in sports, remind them that sports are fun. That when they play, win or lose, it is a great time to be with their teammates and grow as a team. Remind them to encourage their teammates and treat them with respect. That no matter the outcome of the game, their teammates will be by their side.
After a game, ask your child if they worked hard or if they had fun playing, don’t focus on whether or not they won or lost. This helps keep the focus on effort. Remind your child that setbacks are temporary. Athletes should be praised for commitment, hard work, and effort, not for victories. This helps a child to understand that they don’t always have to win to be strong or successful.
Learn From Losses
The famous quote by John Wooden says it all, “Losing is only temporary and not all encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.” Help your child understand that there is always something to learn from a loss and their coach can point out places where they can work on to improve their play for future games.
Notice Specific Improvements
Help athletes find places where they can succeed that aren’t directly connected to the outcome of the game. Did they increase their rebounds or assists? Did they play amazing defense? Look for little improvements to keep your child enjoying the game. Winning isn’t everything.
Help young athletes think about the other team and understand that their opponents have worked hard and want to win. Being a good sport starts with respecting your opponent. Those opponents may even become new friends. And respecting your opponent means you give your best effort, play to win, and then, win or lose, congratulate them.
Teach your child that being a good sport means taking responsibility for their actions. Not to blame errors on teammates or make excuses for mistakes, but instead to take responsibility and then move on. Some young athletes may need to take a deep breath and cool down as they learn to control their reactions, but as they learn about sportsmanship they will become better at taking responsibility for their actions
Point out good sportsmanship in others. Whether it’s a professional athlete on TV or your child’s opponents. Talk about and celebrate the successes and losses, and the fun of sports. Seeing this in others may help your child in understanding how to deal with loss and be a respectful winner. And with continued practice and help from coaches and parents, a young athlete can develop a sense of fairness and equality, and learn about sportsmanship and how to handle disappointment with grace.