Losing is a hard pill to swallow in any sport. So it’s crucial to accept defeat, remain positive, and move on to the next challenge. But kids don’t have this ability. For most, losing a game can be very disheartening. Coaches and parents have to step into these situations to recover kids’ self-confidence, teach them how to overcome defeat, and motivate them for the next game.

Listen to Your Child

After the game, take a moment to listen to your child. Allow them to retell the game and get angry if they need to, but only to an extent. Let them tell their story and expose their feelings to you.

But be attentive to what they say and how they say it. If the child is disrespectful to the official, teammates, or the coach, interrupt them and don’t pass up the opportunity to correct their behavior. The same goes if they start to break or hit things in their fit of range.

Help Them Understand Their Feelings

Getting angry, sad, disappointed, or frustrated is normal after a loss. It’s as much part of sports as it is life, and your child needs to understand this. After they finish speaking, let them identify their emotions. Ask them:

  • How do you feel at the moment?
  • Why are you angry/sad/disappointed?
  • What would change those feeling?
  • How can you reach that sort of outcome?

Remaining calm and leading the conversation in this direction will help your child reasonably cope with their emotions. As they age, their coping mechanism will form. It will let them rationalize the problem to find a solution.

Praise Their Efforts

Praise your child no matter the outcome. If they are accustomed to hearing words of approval from you when they do well at practice, commend their effort even when the results aren’t favorable. Praise their hard work and level of commitment, and get them used to the fact.

Instead of saying, “Congratulations, you were the best player on the pitch,” say “I like the amount of effort you put to help your teammates today. Great job!” It signals the importance of teamwork over winning, and that you will always recognize and acknowledge hard work in spite of the result.

Don’t Criticize Their Efforts

Despite the loss, you have to remain supportive. Never criticize your child. If you reprimand their effort or performance, it can put them off of sport altogether. So, instead of using negative language like “You should have done better,” use assertive statements like “I think you have the ability to do better next time.”

Additionally, you should offer to help them practice their game as a sign of support. Showing a genuine interest to work with your child as a way of overcoming loss, directs their efforts towards a more constructive resolution.

Don’t Let Them Be a Sore Loser

Teach your child to be humble in defeat, and graceful in victory. Win or lose; your child has to know how to accept the result and remain kind in spite of it. Teach them to demonstrate compassion by shaking hands and saying “Good game, and thank you for playing” to each opponent after the game. Learning how to use fair play to show sportsmanship will help your child focus on playing the game for fun, and not for the result.

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