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Teaching Your Kids About Losing

I’m not one of those people who can watch or participate in a game and say, “well, we didn’t win, but what a great game.” I just can’t — there’s no way. I hate losing and it never feels good no matter how well we play.

I have the charming ability to find competition in everything, even outside of sports. On family trips, I want to drive so we can make great time. In yoga, I look around to see who’s holding a pose better (the ultimate sin) and I have a hell of a time just going on a walk without a finish line. While the competitiveness has served me well in life, it’s probably kept me from enjoying a lot as too.

As a coach, I’ve been able to convince the younger kids that it doesn’t matter what the score was just as long as you played hard and had a good time. That doesn’t work anymore. Boy #1 is nine now and his basketball team (that I coach) suffered a devastating loss last Friday night. We were up by 8 at the half and ended up losing by 1 in overtime. The other team and their fans came pouring onto the court in celebration after they’d won. That just made it worse.

My team was beyond pissed and so was I. If I would have said, “Hey, we’re all winners tonight!!!” I would have lost all the credibility and trust I’d built up this season. I looked at them and said, “Guys, I know this one hurts. But this is the kind of game you bounce back from stronger. You guys played hard — and that’s all I can asked for. Let’s come back next week a better team and get after it.”

They seemed to get it. They didn’t like it, but they got it.

There comes a time where kids need to learn that this is an amazingly competitive world — especially in this country. I’m sure that some European country where everything is subsidized may tolerate losing and putting forth mediocre work, but not here. You need to work hard to win. And that’s a great lesson for them to learn and build a life on.

Losing is tough, but it’s a necessary evil that makes winning even sweeter. It’s easy to quit after a tough loss, but those who come back, come back stronger and better. In sports and in life.

Don’t teach your kids to enjoy or even tolerate losing as they get older. However; let them know even the best lose and that you can learn a lot more about yourself from losing than you do from winning.

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