How to Help Your Young Athlete Deal with a Loss

The older and more mature we become, the better we deal with loss and failure.

Though for young athletes, dealing with the sting of defeat can be quite devastating. How do we help our young athletes cope with losing?

For kids, the pressure to win comes from everywhere – their coaches, peers, society, and even their parents. Coaches remind their athletes that the reason they train so hard is so that they can perform at their optimum level in their upcoming game(s). “Practice makes perfect.” As young athletes begin to learn the value of hard work, they start to take loss much harder as winning becomes more important to them.

As kids begin to develop skills through training and hard work, they start to discover that their efforts play a role in the outcome of the game. And when they or their team loses, they carry the weight of it all, thinking that if they had done better they would have won.

Parents watched their kids work so hard, and they also feel invested on whether they win or lose. And while parents are also experiencing the disappointment of the loss, it’s important that parents do not add to how awful their children already feel.

Here are some ways that you can help your kid deal with losing:


Shut Up

That’s right. Just shut it. On the drive home, do not add fuel to the fire by expressing your frustration. You may be tempted to share your opinion(s), but now is not the time to talk about how you feel about the referee not paying attention or the coach not putting your kid in enough. Now is certainly not the time to talk to your child about their individual performance.

Instead, wait. If your kid wants to engage in conversation about the game, wait for them to initiate it. Eventually, they will open up to you. And whatever you do, do not lecture them, as this will only add to their frustration.


Express Empathy

And once they do start to talk about it, validate their feelings. Assure them that it is ok to feel the way they do. Let them know that it is natural to be upset.

Let them vent. Allow this time for them to get their feelings out. What’s important is that they know that you support them no matter what.


Don’t Dwell on It

Losing is new to them. And they need a few moments to handle it in their own way. They will learn the lesson of loss in their own way. Allowing the pain of losing longer than it needs to be can be excruciating and may cause your child to either shutdown or worse, live with the disappointment longer than they have to.

Instead, shift to a new topic or better yet, encourage them to move forward by talking about what they will do at the next game. The important thing for you as a parent is to inspire them, make them realize that there will be plenty more opportunities in the future and that you love them no matter what.

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