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Losing is a Winning Game

Teaching a child to lose can be more important than celebrating the win.

My son’s soccer team has lost the last four soccer games in a row. But those little dudes have played each game with enthusiasm and drive the whole way through. No quitting, no giving up, and tons of smiles, despite their poor record. They are running strong until the whistle blows and are not discouraged when they fail to earn the victor’s title.

One could attest that maybe the team doesn’t want to win all that badly. One could also determine that they’ve just had a good time playing and are satisfied with the outcome, regardless of the score.

Winning is great, most everyone would agree. But losing is OK too. In fact, some would say if you want to succeed, you need to fail, because you glean so many character-building qualities in the process. And it’s a great paradigm to teach our children.

During the first three soccer games, I was a bit surprised that sometime during the first or second quarter when the score was no more than three or four to one or zero, the opposing coaches were quick to suggest our team field more players to lessen the loss for our kids. I know they’re young, but how long do we continue to “band-aid” our kids from those things in life that might hurt their feelings or result in an outcome that is something other than positive?

Now I know that it is AYSO and having been through the coaches training as a head coach myself, I realize the league fundamentals and sportsmanship ideals the organization disseminates, and I really believe in them.

I just feel like sometimes the only thing that might make a child do better is to taste the bitterness of defeat, whether on the soccer field, in the classroom or on the playground.

When I reflect on my life, I have certainly gained more through my failures than successes. From grade school through college and into the spheres of work and family… it is the mistakes, the missed points, lost moments, big bloopers that stick out.

I remember feeling the heat of my cheeks and perspiration on my brow when during a live, all-school Spelling Bee, I stumbled over the word ‘exclamation’ in a jam-packed auditorium in second grade. I remember crying when my dad, who was refereeing my baseball game at age 7, threw me out at home. I remember not making the cheerleading squad in high school and failing the written part of my driver’s license the first time I took it – a natural consequence for not studying.

It was always the C in Philosophy that sticks out more than the A in journalism. I had to work harder in Philosophy than in journalism, it did not come naturally to me.

I cringe when I recall early in my journalism career when as an editor I ran a front-page headline that read, “Pubic Library to open its doors.” That’s right – pubic, not public.  It sure taught me to proof things closer. Or the time I was greeting then-governor-hopeful Grey Davis in the green room at KTVU. I told him I had a friend with the exact same name… (I thought Grey’s name was Greg and just had to run with it… who names their kid Grey anyway?)

I’m a bit squirmy when I reflect on these moments, but I am able to laugh about them now because of the many qualities I gleaned from those disappointing and frustrating experiences. Maybe it’s that I had to pry myself off the ground at a low moment, or spark an internal pep talk when the chips were down. Failure for me has taught me more about myself than any other experience. It has shaped my coping skills, helped me gain control of my emotions, taught me how to handle disappointment, focus, discipline, hard work and, most importantly, has given me the confidence to get back up and try again. And again, and again.

So as my kids dribble their soccer ball through the fields of life, I hope they lose a few games to make those wins feel so good. I do not intend to stand in the way of their losses, but plan to be there to listen and provide support and guidance as they see themselves through it.  Learning to lose is a life skill, teaching us to try harder, to evaluate, problem solve and to be brave and confident enough to try it again.

Turtle October 17, 2012 at 03:45 AM
This kind of belief system is why America is losing. It does not play out well in the real world. That is why kids play sports, to compete, it builds that character.
E. L. James October 17, 2012 at 04:48 AM
You fail a project at work, you get fired. You get bad grades, you do not enter a good college. Win Win Win.

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