Winning and losing are both very temporary things. Having won or lost on the sporting field, the most important thing is how you deal with the result and move forward. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is essentially standing still.
Success in the long term will go to the person or team that reflects upon their performance and moves forward with a desire to improve the performance regardless of the previous result.
It was Grantland Rice, the famous American 20th century sportswriter who coined the phrase “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game”. These sentiments still stand true today. We’d all probably prefer for our children to be humble when they win and resilient when they lose. If given the choice we’d prefer our sons to behave like Rafael Nadal rather than Nick Kyrgios. Clearly maturity plays a big part in how people respond to disappointment.
If your child is having difficulty with their relationship to winning or losing there are a two simple things you can do as a parent to help them mature and grow as athletes:
- Unconditional love – it is important that your child understands that the outcome of the game is temporary and changeable, but that their value is permanent and will only improve with effort. In coaching terms, it is lowering the stakes not the standards. It is important to separate your child’s value as a human being from the outcome of the game.
- Constant improvement – while every game has winners and losers. There are always wins within losses and we can always learn from our mistakes when we win. You can help your child by guiding them to see opportunities to improve their performance regardless of the result. By analysing the things that went well and not so well we discover the skills that need refinement going forward.
When your children are winning you can afford to challenge them in their training because winning can lead to complacency. On the other hand, when your children are playing in losing teams it is important to nurture and encourage them.
In summation, perhaps it is worth noting another quote from Grantland Rice who said “Failure isn’t bad if it does not attack the heart, and success is all right if it does not go to the head.”
Brian Smith teaches Commerce at The Scots College, and is also the Director of Rugby. Brian has a Masters in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University and a Diploma of Education from Griffith University. He has the distinction of playing in the inaugural Rugby World Cup for Australia (1987) and he coached England at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Brian is passionate about helping student athletes fulfil their potential on and off the sports field.