Our town just played our rivalry in junior varsity and varsity football. We didn’t win either game. But, that is not what this blog is about.

Is it the end of the world when you lose a game? No! Does it suck? Yes!

During the JV game, when we arrived at the other school, there were some cars that had things written on them against our team. As a parent, I was disgusted. If my kid had that on their car, they would not be driving that car anymore.

At the end of the game, the opposing team was making gestures and saying “bye-bye you lost”.

 Later on in the day, after our varsity team played; I was a witness to the aftermath. As our boys walked off the field, some heads hung low, some were visibly upset, and some were just silent.

Our fans, many of which left toward the end of the game when the inevitable drew near, were also quiet and filed out of the school parking lot. A cheerleader from the opposing team was making sexual gestures and yelling out to one of our players. As another was cursing and yet others who had the words “f (expletive) Th” and our team name followed by hoochies written on their cars.

I was proud of our team’s that day. They fought hard on the field, but even harder was the character they showed, as we saw the game was not going to end in our favor. They showed restraint when faced with the BS I shared above.

What I witnessed that day were humble losers. There was no cursing, there was no yelling. Our boys were respectful; as they did the handshakes at the end of the game.

A few weeks later, I was at another game with them on the modified level. Unfortunately, we did not win that game. As we were leaving, I walked out with the cheerleaders (one of them being my daughter). Without prompting the girls, they congratulated the boys of the opposing team as they walked by. They said “great game boys; congratulations”. I was so proud of them. But, the boys started laughing and one used some vulgar language. As they got on the bus they were screaming and said some; not so nice things.

We all want to win and represent our teams. But, I got to thinking, “how do we raise both humble losers and humble winners?”.

Winning or losing a game is a fleeting moment. We are role models for our children in how we act and react in these situations.

I tried to reflect back on how I reacted during times my son has won or lost. He plays basketball, football, and baseball. Each of those sports has its own culture. My daughter does cheer year-round which includes a competition season.

I think that there is something to always learn, win or lose. At the end of each sports season, the coaches have a discussion with the kids about what they did during the game, positive and negative. There are videos to review and plays to discuss. I believe it’s in those moments the real idea of “team” is being learned.

We have to provide a safe space for our kids to be valued. We have to provide them with the love and nurturing to go out there and try new things.

Youth sports provide our children with a sense of comradery, learning how to work well with others, taking constructive criticism and how to rely on others to help you. These are life lessons they can take into other relationships in life such as work and friendships.

I believe in order to teach humility we have to look at the whole idea of sports. How do we teach the line between the utter joy of winning and being a braggart?

I always tell my kids to remember what it felt like to win but, also remember what it felt like to lose; then act accordingly.

I asked some of my male and female friends what they thought about humility in sports.  I was sort of blown away by how many felt humility equaled some type of weakness.

I disagree! I think humility takes great strength. I believe that in order to be a team player you have to humble yourself. There are some kids who get tons of play time and others who may not. However, you are a team. Each person on a team plays a role, whether it is big or small.

I think humility is something we need to learn as adults. We all have the Monday morning quarterback, the sideline parent, the expert on the game, the parent who believes their kids is going to be the next Yankees, Giants or angers player”.

We love our kids, but statistics don’t lie. A handful of children make it to the big time. It is important to be a support system for your kids and honest about their strengths and limitations.

My thoughts:

  1. Appreciate what you are good at and be able to recognize your limits
  2. Be cognizant of what areas you can improve on (be honest with SELF)
  3. Youth sports provide our kids with friendship and teamwork
  4. It teaches our kids the importance of discipline and structure
  5. Learn that you are not the center of the universe
  6. The first time they are having to follow direction from someone other than their parent
  7. Beginning to learn how to rely on others for outcomes
  8. Listen to your child after a game; follow their lead- they don’t need to hear all the things they did right or wrong after the game. Trust me they are probably their hardest critic. I usually say it was great seeing you play or “ you hungry” ( honestly what I say most days to them after a game) When they are ready to talk they will
  9. Defeat is part of life, but how we react, what we learn and how we grow from that defeat is far more important than the loss itself
  10. I know it’s hard- but come to as many games as you can. They look for us in the stands. I love making eye contact with my kids and letting them know we are there.

Deborah Levine-Powell is a psychotherapist in New York, where she works with teenage girls who are victims of abuse and trafficking. She is a wife and a mom to a tween and teenager. When she is not working, you can find her engaged in PTA activities, a leader at Girl Scouts, having fun with her friends and family, while serving up hot soulful dishes in the kitchen.

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