No one should like to lose. After hours and hours in the batting cages, running sprints up and down the court and practicing blocks in the rain, it’s hard to not be disheartened by a loss. Your youth athlete might be thinking to themselves, “I can’t believe I screwed up that play,” or “If only I had done that instead.” And while feeling bad about a loss means they care about the sport they are playing, you don’t want your athlete to get so weighed down by the loss that they can’t shake it off and get ready for the next game.
Here are 3 tips for how to handle your youth athlete after a loss:
1. Focus on what they did right.
Kids are going to beat themselves up enough after a loss, especially if they feel like it was their fault. Grounder got through their legs? They dropped an important pass? They feel bad enough as it is for letting their team down and don’t need you to point it out to them. Instead of telling them what they did wrong; focus on praising them for what they did right. It may not make much of a difference on the car ride home, but knowing that you’re proud of them regardless if they win or lose means a lot to youth athletes in the long run.
2. Be honest about the game.
Why did your athlete’s team lose? Was it because the other team was plainly better than them? Or was it a tight game decided by one or two crucial moments that could have gone either way? Explain that there is no shame in losing to a team that is better than yours; it’s actually helpful! What makes that team better? Have they been playing longer? Do they know more advanced plays? How can their team improve to be at the same level?
If it was a close game, praise your youth athlete and their team for going neck and neck with another team. Two evenly matched competitors make for the best game! All the players are extra focused because they know every move counts. You can’t get upset because the other team got one extra hit, caught one extra pass or made one extra play that earned them the win.
4. Stop talking about it!
Sometimes it’s just best to let the subject drop. No athlete wants to relive their loss again and again, whether it is in the car ride home, over dinner or at the next practice. Yes, it’s important to treat a loss like a learning opportunity and use it to inspire your youth athlete to try harder next time, but you don’t want to bring it up again and again. At some point it’s no longer helpful and it’s just painful for them to hear.