2 ways to view losing

By Janis Meredith | Posted 11/21/2018

At his Hall of Fame speech in 2013, Coach Bill Parcells explains the choice his team had when they suffered a loss.

“Losers assemble in small groups and complain about the coaches and other players. Winners assemble as a team and find ways to win.”

Although Parcells was talking about professional football players, I think his words also apply to youth sports parents, coaches and athletes. Nobody likes to lose, let’s be real. Losing is not fun, I don’t care whether you’re talking about the Super Bowl or a little league game. But when it does happen, how will you respond?

Choice 1: Complaining and blaming

The complaining and blaming huddle of parents and/or players — better known as sympathy groups — is looking for an answer to their frustration. It’s human nature to look for someone to blame when something goes bad. That’s why lawsuits are so popular.

Finding someone to blame somehow soothes us when bad stuff happens. But pinpointing blame really doesn’t resolve the problem, it just makes us feel justified in our frustration.

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When you or your child want to blame others for mistakes in the game and losses, try instead to focus on the problem that needs to be fixed, not on the person who did it.

Help your child understand that one person’s mistake is the whole team’s mistake. Athletes win as a team and they lose as a team and when they think we” instead of I,” they will play better together.

Perhaps instead of complaining and blaming, encourage your child to ask themselves, “What could I have done different?” Is there anything they could have done to help the situation? Sometimes the answer is no, there is nothing they could have done. Other times, the answer is yes, your child could have helped make a difference.

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When athletes start learning very young to play the blame game, no one wins. Kids who learn to take responsibility instead of blaming others will most likely grow up to be adults who take responsibility instead of blaming others. Let’s break the cycle of blame. That, parents, has got to start with you.

Choice 2: Find ways to win

When Parcels said that, he was most likely talking about winning by the scoreboard, and as a professional coach, winning was important for job security.

But in youth sports, where character development and safety should not be tossed aside for the all-important win, the word winning” may be reflected in ways other than the score.

A youth sports coach who truly wants kids to learn and grow into better athletes and humans needs to seek out the wins after every game, even when the game was lost.

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What are the wins? Perhaps the kids finally understood how to run a difficult play. Maybe some of the players exhibited good leadership. Or it may be that the team exhibited excellent sportsmanship by losing graciously.

In youth sports, winning is not just about the score board, it’s about learning to work hard until you have success, it’s about understanding what teamwork is all about, and it’s about kids picking up traits and habits that will set them up for success as adults.

I’ve seen youth sports teams win according to the scoreboard, but their attitudes and behavior made them the real losers.

Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.