"It's not if you win or lose, it's how you play the game". We've all heard it a thousand times before. And to a certain extent, it's true. Especially in youth sports. But let's face it, no one is having fun when you're constantly losing (especially if you're losing badly!); not the players, nor the parents.
My boys have each had at least one losing season. When No. 1 was in the 5th grade, his travel basketball team lost all 11 of their games. That same year, No. 2's 4th grade basketball team lost of all their games. And most recently, No. 3's Fall soccer team lost each and every one of their games. It was not easy. And it was definitely not fun, but they stuck with it.
Just yesterday a family member mentioned that their son was going to quit his basketball team after they lost their first game 57-12 last Saturday. I bit my tongue and we moved on to the next subject.
I don't know about you, but that would definitely NOT be allowed in our house! There is no I in team. Win or lose, they are committed for the entire season.
So, what can you do to keep your player motivated and committed during a challenging season?
Listen to them. If they feel like talking, of course. Be a shoulder to lean on. A good listening, non-judgmental confidant. We all know that talking and expressing our feelings is one of the best forms of therapy.
Be their mom, not their coach. Leave the stat chat on the field. There is no need to press the issue. Instead focus on how proud you are of them for doing their best and finishing each game strong. Tell them about a time you faced adversity.
Praise them for what they did well. It's not all about scoring the most goals or baskets. Did they keep their composure? Did they show great sportsmanship? Did they play the entire game because the team was short players? Did they cheer their teammates on? All of these are attributes of a great athlete.
Give them real life examples. Tell them about how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team yet went on to be the most known basketball player in history. Tell them how there have been a total of 11 NFL teams to go completely winless in a season. Children look up to famous people. Let them know they too have had tough seasons.
Shift their focus elsewhere. Sometimes you just need to forget it even happened, especially after a big loss. Take them out for a post-game lunch date, grab some fro-yo, or go for a walk to the park. Whatever it takes to get their thoughts elsewhere.
As Coach Hubby tells his teams "everyone knows how to win, but not everyone knows how to lose." These tough seasons without a doubt build character. If they won every single game, all the time, there would be absolutely nothing to gain; nothing to build on. Losing builds character. It makes them work harder. It teaches them to overcome adversity. It makes them appreciate victories, both small and large. In other words, it gives them life skills.
So while losing is not the ideal season, it should not be seen as a wasted season either. Every practice and game is a lesson learned, regardless of the score.
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