Do you consider the win-loss effect?

Inevitably, teams and individuals lose. Undefeated seasons are very rare, even in high school. Even the undefeated and most talented of teams and individuals are eventually scheduled to meet on the way to a state championship.

Most athletes will tell you their ultimate success and skill was gained from losses. Losing is a key ingredient in the formula for learning to win.

During the very important transition from just playing to competing, young athletes often discover acceptance of guilt and unhappiness is expected to accompany losing.

The bounce of the ball, the weather, confidence, or even ability, are more frequently the cause of the win-loss effect.

In the pecking order of athletics, the higher a young athlete goes, the more likely the final score is of greater importance than the performances of the players involved. Despite that, even winning may not automatically cancel a need to show anger, remorse or mourning over a poor performance.

Emotional reactions often differ between men and women, and between children of different ages. Education athletics offer an opportunity to prepare children to cope with the inevitable losses of adult life. Losses happen. If we (coaches, teammates, moms and dads) can cope with the inevitable losses, we can use some proven strategies to help put losses in perspective.

From the wisdom of youth and words of youth-wise coaches (plus a psychologist or two), here are a few valuable hints for the aftermath of a loss:

  • Be present to support. Kids say, “After a loss I want to talk, but have to listen.” So, listen and invite questions. In athletics, losses are never terminal. There will always be another opportunity.

  • Maintain the usual schedule. “When we lose, everything changes.” Keep the routines of bedtime, meals, practices and homework the same. Be together and share the feelings. Remember the achievements.

  • Keep the loss in perspective. “No one feels worse than I do when we lose.” Remember that 50 percent or more of those in competition lose. Focus on dedication, determination and commitment. Anger and blame are counterproductive.

  • Do something together. “Dad/Mom doesn’t like me when we lose.” Visit another team family, attend a movie, take a drive. Just be there and share the lessons. You really love the child, not the win-loss record. Remember, the older they get the more they seek togetherness elsewhere.

  • Plan for success. “They keep talking about what I did wrong, not how to make it right.” Ask only questions to which you are willing to listen to the answers. Start planning immediately, together. Do not allow incorrect feelings, attitudes, esteem or lack of confidence to remain as part of the cause for a defeat. Agree to the next step and take one step at a time.

  • Give emotional support. “I need a hug but get a chew-out.” One way to express confidence is to take on a related responsibility. Support the player, not yourself. Learn enough about the player to know whether a hug, silence, evaluating together or action is the best for her or him.

  • Discover your true colors. “They don’t understand me.” Sports parents (and coaches) come in four colors: blue, green, gold, and orange. We all have all four colors, but one dominates our temperament spectrum.

    Blues are emotionally sensitive to family situations and attempt to avoid conflict or competition. Blues nurture the family’s needs. Often a friend-in-need rescuer.

    Greens expect other family members to at least attempt to achieve the same intellectual standards they set for themselves. Greens encourage intellectual potential. Greens may not praise easily, but focus on future learning and improvement.

    Golds like changes to occur in an orderly and efficient manner, keeping things stable and consistent. Golds are the caretakers of the family. They want family members to keep on task and follow the rules.

    Oranges do not endorse a specific parenting style nor compare their parenting to others. Oranges provide optimism and flexibility. Use humor and allow children to be courageous and adventuresome.

    Which are you most like? Least like? Which color is your son/daughter most like? Do you match and brighten each others colors?

    My spectrum? Orange-Gold-Blue-Green. Some of us impulsive oranges need little help to get ourselves in enough trouble, but sincerely appreciate the greens that keep us out of trouble. We learn to respect and appreciate the rainbows our teams make during sprinkles.

    Now, that’s a pot of gold worth searching for.

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