If your child plays sports, he or she will inevitably lose at least a few games. Even the most skilled and talented of teams will meet their match or have an off day. While losing a game may be common, it is never easy. It is far more difficult, however, when the loss is at a big game like a championship game or one against a big rival.
My daughter's soccer team had struggled through a rather rough season recently. The team was plagued with illness and injury. Most games of the season, they played a full hour of soccer with no subs or even with less players on the field than an opposing team had. This was in a year of record-breaking heat in Texas, and many games were played in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. The girls persevered and managed to earn a spot in the district championship tournament.
At the district championship, they played a total of six games over the weekend, thankfully in cooler temperatures. They won the first four game easily. Their fifth game, the semi-final, was won after double overtime that went into penalty kicks. There was an hour and a half between the fifth game and the final game in the championship. This game was not just a championship game; it was also against their rival. My daughter's team was exhausted, and more so than the other team. The other team had only played four games up to this point versus our five, and they had a much longer break between games. Despite the factors at play, my daughter's team was simply out-matched. The other team was better. It was a brutal loss. Adding insult to injury, it was also my daughter's birthday.
So what do you tell your child after a loss like this, or any other loss for that matter? Kids who enjoy playing sports often have a strong desire to win, and any loss is a tough one.
Take a breather. As a parent, you know just how emotional games can be when you watch them from the sidelines or the stands. Just imagine how emotional those games are for your child who is out there giving it his or her all. Give your child a hug, but sometimes it is best to just let the emotions of the game die down before anything is said. Depending on how big of a loss it is, this may be just a few minutes, or it may be hours or even days.
Ask your child about his or her thoughts on the game. There have been so many times over the course of being a sports parent when I have seen one thing on the field, and my kids have told me something entirely different happened that I didn't see. Sometimes they have said they got hurt during the game but struggled through. Sometimes the coach told them to do something I didn't hear, another player was out of position, and more. Before you offer any advice or encouragement, take time to find out what they think about the game.
When your child has a bad game. Some days kids feel like they had a bad game and were a contributing factor to the loss. Talk to your child about how they think they played. Sometimes kids dwell on one mistake they made, and they beat themselves up over it. No child is perfect, and even professional athletes aren't perfect on the field. Remind your child that it takes a whole team to win or lose. If your child feels continuously outmatched on the field, you can offer to do some extra practices at a local park or pay for private training if it is in your budget.
Not always the best. The fact is that even the best team is not always the best. A winning team will advance to play against progressively more skilled teams, and eventually most teams will experience a loss. Remind your child that no team is ever always the best. Even most Super Bowl winners experience a few losses during the season, and most will not win the Super Bowl two seasons in a row.
Areas to improve. Some losses are due to the team just having an off day, but often a loss is due to a team being out-matched. If your child's team has a great coach, the coach will address team weaknesses. As a parent, you can ask your child about areas that he or she thinks he can improve on. Offer your child the ability to help improve in those areas. There are excellent and often free videos online that offer specific tips and training advice for athletes in various sports, and your child can practice these new techniques at home or use the videos to improve efforts later in games and practices.
A loss can be extremely hard on kids. The bigger the loss, the more emotional that loss will be. We've all seen professional athletes lose their emotions on the field, and kids certainly cannot be expected to be free of emotions after a loss either. After the emotions of the loss die down, you can talk to your child about the lessons learned from the game. Every loss provides your child with an opportunity to grow and develop as a player. As a parent, your post-game talk can help your child learn how to grow from a loss.Content by Kim Daugherty.